environment

Could London be the first national park city?

For its size, London is one of the world’s greenest cities. There are 3,000 parks within the city limits, 3.8 million gardens, 30,000 allotments and 300 farms. The Thames and its tributaries shape the city’s geography. When you add it all up, London is 47% green.

That gave geographer and explorer Dan Raven-Ellison an idea: could you declare London a national park? It would be unusual. National parks are rural, wilderness even. In Britain we’d associate the term with the landscapes of Snowdonia, Dartmoor or the Cairngorms. No city in the world has ever done anything like it. But the definition of a national park is rather simple. It’s an area of land managed to “conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage”, and “promote the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.”

It’s admittedly not in the spirit of a national park exactly, but both of those aims could be applied to a city. In London, it would take one of the city’s lesser known attributes and push it front and centre. It would create a mandate to enhance and join up green spaces, boost biodiversity, soften the landscape and encourage people to take more pride in the city’s wildlife. Air pollution would be improved, carbon emissions would be lowered, and more children would get to enjoy the outdoors.

The idea has been building momentum for a couple of years now. The Greater London National Park City Foundation has formed to push the idea forwards, and a growing number of organisations have pledged their support. It’s a story to watch.

Here’s a video exploring the idea. (In the still image below, I used to live 100 yards from the white tower in the middle distance on the right, and was a regular visitor to the wooded heath in the foreground.)

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