What is a National Park City?
A National Park City belongs to the family of National Parks, but is not the same as a National Park. The working definition is ‘a large urban area, that is managed and semi-protected through both formal and informal means, to enhance the natural capital of its living landscape and provide a better quality of life’. (Note: The National Park City Foundation is currently leading a piece of work to agree an international definition and typology for a National Park City).
The UK’s National Parks are mostly in rural areas, often with spectacular natural beauty, where people work together to protect natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. Their aims include:
- Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities by the public
- Conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
- Seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within them
- And in Scotland, to promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities.
A National Park City seeks to apply these purposes to a whole city.
What will a National Park City do?
London National Park City aims to:
- Connect more people to nature and the outdoors, improving health, well-being and social cohesion
- Create more high quality green and blue space, making London over 50% green and blue, delivering improvements for wildlife, people’s enjoyment and an attractive and sustainable environment for visiting, living and working in;
- Promote the identity of London as the world’s first National Park City, helping residents and visitors to appreciate its value and potential for a rich cultural life anchored in its outdoor heritage; and;
- Link people to the national and international family of national parks and other protected areas.
By taking inspiration from National Park purposes, the London National Park City will bring a focus to many of its most urgent and long-term challenges.
- The city will be greener, with a greater diversity of natural wild spaces, improving air quality and the standards of everyday life for residents and visitors
- More children – and adults - will enjoy play, recreational and learning experiences outdoors, with a positive impact on physical and mental health
- Communities will plan and create greener and bluer neighbourhoods, connecting with each other and with where they live, work and play
- More planted and green space will reduce flood risk and increase resilience, as well as enhancing its biodiversity
- Visitors and residents will make use of a network of existing and new community groups and businesses, which provide exciting and diverse outdoors activities and experiences, enabling citizens to experience the natural world more easily and fully
- London will become more distinctive as a city, attracting more visitors, investment and interesting activities and businesses of all kinds, boosting its economy and its global brand.
London faces a range of challenges in the 21st century: air and water quality (with close to 10,000 premature deaths a year caused by air pollution); threats to protected green spaces; fewer children having access to outdoor play and learning; growing childhood obesity and poor adult mental and physical health; inequality and isolation; and poor community cohesion.
A new way of thinking and acting, and revitalising our city’s relationship with its natural environment, is at the heart of what creating a National Park City will do.
How will it work in practice?
A new London National Park City Partnership will be formed of groups and organisations. Its approach will be to:
- Lead campaigns that drive demand for good practices
- Inspire activities that contribute to its aims, acting as a catalyst
- Join up activity and thinking, at a city-wide scale
- Promote and share practice and knowledge sharing, amplifying existing activity and extending benefits
The initiative will extend beyond environmental organisations, and include sports clubs, community groups, housing associations, schools, and many other diverse organisations and individuals to develop, extend and maintain activities and green spaces in localities, connecting with each other across London.
A National Park City Foundation charity has been formed to establish both the London National Park City and the National Park City concept. It will also support local action by helping to raise and direct funds and investment, helping Londoners to scale-up their activities and to fill in gaps where there is a lack of community action or support.
The London National Park City will work to:
- Ensure that parks are well used and valued
- Create a ‘big picture’, connecting parks and outdoor activities across London, from kayaking and hiking to beekeeping, allotmenteering, sloe-picking and bird watching, so that it is possible to access nature easily across the whole of London
- Focus on the micro-greening of London, to create Living Places, for example, encouraging people to ‘green’ their front gardens, make their streets ‘green corridors’, or create wildlife havens in empty lots too small to build on. 24% of London is made up of private gardens and the majority of the capital’s trees are in private ownership.
- Make urban developments of all kinds greener by encouraging the inclusion of living roofs, wildlife havens, quiet green spaces, urban farming, and many more such projects
- Support city residents to learn about nature so that they can enjoy it more. As most of the world’s population will soon be living in urban areas, city residents need to understand the natural world and its ecosystems if it is to survive.
Can you summarise the aims?
When London is a National Park City, residents, communities and businesses will work together more to:
- Connect more people to nature and the outdoors, improving their health, wellbeing and social cohesion;
- Create more high quality green and blue space and better places in London, delivering improvements for wildlife, people’s enjoyment and an attractive and sustainable environment for living and working in;
- Promote the identity of London as the world’s first National Park City, helping residents and visitors to appreciate the potential for a rich cultural life anchored in its outdoor heritage; and;
- Link people to the national and international family of national parks and other protected areas.
OK, so this is a great idea. But how will it work in practice?
The London National Park City will be delivered by volunteers and a partnership of groups and organisations with the support of the National Park City Foundation, the charity that has been established to help make the London National Park City a success.
The London National Park City Partnership will inspire, catalyse, support, join-up and spread best practice through knowledge sharing. The initiative will draw in sports clubs, community groups, schools, and other organisations as well as individuals to develop, extend and maintain activities and green spaces in localities, connecting with each other across London. For example, there will be a ‘Bank of Ideas’ to share inspirations and best practice across organisations and activities.
The National Park City Foundation will also support local action by helping to raise and direct funds and investment which local projects often lack, and by helping Londoners to scale-up their activities and to fill in gaps where there is a lack of community action or support.
What is the London National Park City Charter?
The London National Park City Charter will be a short document that sets out our Partnership’s vision, aims, values and an action plan. While some of it will be set in stone, the action plan will be updated on a regular basis by the Partnership’s members. Individuals and small community groups as well as larger organisations will be able to influence both the action plan and other sections of the Charter.
The original London National Park City proposal included a draft Charter. The first Charter of the London National Park City will be shorter and designed so that anyone can pick it up and see how they can both contribute to and benefit from the National Park City.
What is the State of the National Park City Report?
We plan to publish a regular State of the National Park City Report that will reveal data on our objectives. This report will be used to inform the London National Park City Partnership’s progress, decision making and activities.
How will London National Park City benefit my area?
The London National Park City will be made successful by leadership at a local level. May it be on a balcony, in a garden, on your street, park, rooftop or local river, we can all be leaders in improving London’s environment and getting more people outdoors and connected to nature. So do take inspiration from London becoming a National Park City and start doing things to make your local area better.
A network will be created from London’s existing dynamic and diverse organisations, making it easier for you to enjoy getting outdoors and giving you more choice of activities and locations. Each London borough and ward has a distinctive character which will be developed further by those who live, work and play in it – some have waterways or woodlands to explore, others green spaces, or the opportunity to develop green roofs, micro-parks or urban farming. It will also create new sustainable business opportunities as companies and people make the most of the area’s improved natural assets and resources.
How will London National Park City be funded?
The London National Park City is a vision that all Londoners can contribute to.
Residents and visitors can both enjoy and contribute to the London National Park City without the need for any funding.
The National Park City Foundation is the charity that has been established to help make the London National Park City a success. No funding is being asked for from London's councils or central government. The National Park City Foundation will be funded through a mixture of private giving, corporate giving and corporate services.
The Foundation will start off as a small organisation and grow over time. Eventually it may cost around £4 million a year to run. This is about the cost of running a rural National Park or a medium-sized secondary school. It is £3 million a year less than Santander is spending on sponsoring London's bike hire scheme.
How will becoming a National Park City affect building, especially housing?
London will continue to grow, develop and be a dynamic city with local councils and the Mayor of London using their formal planning powers to decide what gets built, where and how.
Being a National Park City presents the opportunity to create and construct green infrastructure and services, creating the more sustainable future London and Londoners need. Creating quality new affordable housing is a priority in London. Being a National Park City will encourage the creation of more sustainable, better connected, denser, greener, higher quality housing in London with more cohesive communities and networks and with a stronger and greener sense of place.
Read more about our position on planning and development here.
What planning powers will the London National Park City have?
London being a National Park City does not bring the kind of planning powers the UK’s other National Parks have. London National Park City would not directly control development or prepare planning policies. These powers would remain with the Greater London Authority, the 32 London boroughs, and the City of London Corporation. Being a National Park City will not add another layer of bureaucracy to decision-making in London.
As the Mayor of London and most local council wards support the London National Park City, they may choose to use their planning policies to support our shared aims. A good example of this is an aim we share with the Mayor’s target to make 50% of London physically green by 2050.
What’s the difference between the London National Park City, the London National Park City Partnership and the National Park City Foundation?
The London National Park City is a place, a vision and a community of people working towards its aims. It will be guided by a London National Park City Charter.
Drawn from our much larger network of organisations, tThe London National Park City Partnership comprises groups and organisations that are working together to make the London National Park City successful and to improve life in the city.
The London National Park City Partnership comprises groups and organisations drawn from a much larger collaborative network, giving leadership and direction to the London National Park City.
The National Park City Foundation is the charity established to inspire, galvanise and support residents and visitors to make the capital radically more green, healthy, wild, beautiful, resilient, enjoyable and prosperous. It will do this through identifying, spreading, catalysing, joining-up and scaling-up best practices and opportunities. It also facilitates the London National Park City Partnership.
The National Park City Foundation is a charity established in 2017 to facilitate and oversee the London National Park City Partnership.
When will London become a National Park City?
In May 2018 there will be a “confirmation event” to set the date - expected to be in late spring/early summer 2019 - when London will be formally declared and launched as a National Park City.
After four years of campaigning it was confirmed on 9th February 2018 that sufficient political support had been achieved to make London a National Park City.