To become a National Park in England, Natural England (the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England) must view a landscape as an ‘extensive tract of country’. Designation is granted because of its natural beauty and the opportunities it affords for open- air recreation. Account may be taken of its wildlife, cultural heritage and opportunities to promote the understanding and enjoyment of an area‘s special qualities by the public.
With its distinctive, urban natural and cultural heritage, historic landscape, and many opportunities for outdoor recreation, London meets many requirements for becoming a National Park. It isn’t, however, an ‘extensive tract of country’, in the spirit of existing legislation, nor would it be respectful to our current National Parks to claim that it should be.
However, cities are significant and incredibly important habitats that are full of potential – not least because we live in them.
So, what if we took inspiration from the successes of our National Parks and were to transform Greater London into a National Park City, a new kind of National Park that sits outside of current legislation?