By Calum Fraser @CalumFraser4
Lewisham have given their full support to making London a national park.
The campaign to make London the world’s first national park city is spearheaded by National Geographic explorer Daniel Raven-Ellison who founded the Greater London National Park City (GLNPC) initiative.
Currently 301 London wards have declared their support and if 27 more make the declaration then there will be a mandate to make this once far fetched idea a reality.
Cllr Rachel Onikosi, cabinet member for public realm, said: “We’re thrilled to lend our support to the National Park City campaign.
“Lewisham residents deserve to live in a city with clean air, green space and an outdoor lifestyle as good as anywhere in the world.”
Mr Ellison wants to redefine our understanding of national parks and the way we think of London.
To become a national park in England the governments advisor for the natural environment, Natural England, must view the landscape as an ‘extensive tract of country’.
Designation is granted because of the area’s natural beauty and the opportunities it affords for open air recreation.
Account may also be taken of its wildlife, cultural heritage and opportunities to promote the public’s understanding and enjoyment of an area’s special qualities.
Mr Ellison said: “London meets many requirements for becoming a national park with its distinctive cultural heritage, historic landscape and many opportunities for outdoor recreation.
“But it isn’t 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 important habitats that are full of potential. So, what if we took inspiration from the successes of our national parks and were to transform Greater London into a new kind of national park that sits outside of current legislation.”
A national park city will not be bound by the same rules and regulations as a national park, but Mr Raven-Ellison believes it will make Londoners more aware of the outdoor opportunities that London has.
Mr Raven-Ellison said: “It’s about the shared purposes we are trying to achieve. Better conservation, better environment, better health and better prosperity.
“Fundamentally it is about getting people outdoors and giving London a new identity but within that having really meaningful targets. Say for instance the Mayor’s aim to make the majority of London green. He cannot do that on his own.
“Twenty-five per cent of London is gardens and 45 per cent of that is paved over.
“If every Londoner greened an average of one square metre then the Mayor’s target could be achieved in no time.
“What if you were a two or three year old growing up in the city, how might that change your vision of the city and your values?”
This announcement comes in a week where Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled the Government’s 25 year environment strategy and announced the shocking fact that more than one in ten young people do not spedn time in the countryside or in large urban green spaces.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged his support to the initiative last year as part of his Environment Strategy where he announced a £9million Greener City Fund to create and improve green spaces across the city.
Lewisham council’s enthusiasm for the initiative is not shared by Bexley and Greenwich as only 14 and 12 per cent of the wards in these boroughs have declared their support.
Mr Raven-Ellison is confident he will reach his target of 328 wards by the end of February, there will then a declaratory event in June before the National Park City is launched in summer 2019.
To declare your support and find out more go to www.nationalparkcity.london.