What is a National Park City?
A National Park City applies the principles of a National Park to a city.
National Parks are usually in rural areas, often with spectacular natural beauty, where people work together to protect natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. National Parks promote the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities by residents and visitors; create business opportunities in hospitality, travel and other sectors; and advance the social and economic well-being of residents.
As a National Park City, London could achieve many of the same outcomes, whilst allowing for the growth and dynamism that are an essential part of successful cities.
A National Park City can be defined as ‘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’.
How would London benefit from becoming a National Park City?
London would benefit in so many ways.
London faces a whole range of challenges, for example, its air and water quality; threats to its protected green spaces; fewer children having access to outdoor play; growing childhood obesity and poor adult mental and physical health; growing inequality and isolation; and poor community cohesion. With close to 10,000 premature deaths a year caused by air pollution, the need to act has never been more urgent.
By taking inspiration from our National Parks, London would address many of its most urgent and long-term challenges.
- The city would be greener, with a greater diversity of green and wild spaces, improving air quality and the quality of everyday life
- More children – and adults - would be learning and playing outdoors, with a positive impact on their physical and mental health
- Communities would plan and create greener and bluer localities, connecting with each other and with where they live, work and play
- More planted and green space would reduce flood risk and increase the city’s resilience, as well as enhancing its biodiversity
- Visitors and residents would tap into 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 has lots of parks. Why do we need to do more?
Becoming a National Park City is not just about parks, it’s about London’s entire habitat. It’s about seeing the gardens, streets, rivers, buildings and parks as one landscape.
This includes protecting and improving existing city parks and developing other green areas to ensure that all Londoners have easy and free access to high-quality green space and to boost London’s biodiversity
The initiative will promote activities that National Parks do, in particular, inspiring and educating people and persuading them to get outdoors by stimulating an immense variety of exciting and imaginative activities and driving new business opportunities.
As a National Park City, London would:
- 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
- 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
- Allow 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 to:
1. Make London greener
✔ Improve the richness, connective and biodiversity of London’s habitats
✔ Improve London’s air and water quality, year on year
2. Make more of London’s outdoor heritage
✔ Improve health and connecting 100% of London’s children to nature
✔ Ensure 100% of Londoners have free and easy access to high quality green space
3. Make a new National Park City identity for London
✔ Inspire businesses to share National Park City goals
✔ Promote London as a Green World City
OK, so this is a great idea. But how will it work in practice?
The London National Park City will be a network of partnerships which inspire 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 Partnership will build the capacity of grassroots initiatives by increasing investment, and through funding, campaigns and facilitation. It will help Londoners to scale-up and fill in gaps where there is a lack of community action or support.
How will London National Park City benefit my area?
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 to explore, others green spaces, or the opportunity to develop green roofs, micro-parks or urban farming. It will also create new business opportunities as companies make the most of the area’s improved natural resources.
How will Greater London National Park City be funded?
No funding is being asked for from London's councils or central government. The National Park City Partnership will be funded through a mixture of private giving, corporate giving and corporate services.
The Partnership 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. It is similar to the annual maintenance cost of the proposed Garden Bridge, but without the £185 million building costs.
How will becoming a National Park City affect building, especially housing?
As it is important to keep London’s ability to grow, develop and remain the dynamic city it is, London could not adopt the planning restrictions that National Parks have. Instead, being a National Park City presents the opportunity to build green infrastructure and services, creating a more sustainable long-term future for London.
Creating new housing remains a priority in London. If London becomes a National Park City, this will encourage the creation of more sustainable, better connected, denser, greener, higher quality housing with more cohesive communities and networks and with a stronger and greener sense of place.
What planning powers will the National Park City have?
Unlike the UK’s other National Parks, London National Park City would not 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. It will not add another layer of bureaucracy to decision-making in London.
OK, you’ve convinced me! What do I do next?
London can become a National Park City, if the majority (328) of London’s 654 wards, the Mayor of London and the London Assembly declare their support.
- Here’s how you can help make that happen:
- Declare your support using this easy link!
- Contact your ward councillors and ask them to support this important campaign! London can become a National Park City once a majority of councillor teams have declared their support. Using the resources here, find out if your ward has declared support and if not, get in touch with them! Get your neighbours involved too
- Get your sports club, community group or workplace to declare their support! This requires no commitment apart from signing up to the idea in principle
- Come to our monthly meetings and become an active campaigner
- Join the conversation on Twitter by following @LondonNPC and on Facebook by finding Greater London National Park City Initiative.
- Get planting! And then plant some more! Involve your neighbours and plant together!
- Explore somewhere in London you have never visited before. Take your family! Do it this weekend!