Park Life

It might surprise those who live in some of London’s increasingly dense and treeless neighbourhoods to hear that the capital has been awarded the status of the world’s first National Park City. Whilst the wider London area does in fact have relatively high levels of green coverage, the award is more of a statement of intent than one of fact. With the Mayor as signatory, this includes a commitment to better air quality, waste reduction and cleaner energy. City Hall has committed £9m to the project, as well as events and policy support through the London Plan, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the London Environment Strategy. While the governing foundation lacks the statutory planning powers of National Parks, its positions on development and planning include: (a) opposing the loss of nature through development, (b) design that allows wildlife to thrive, and (c) defending urban greenspace. This comes at a time when the University of Washington has found that being exposed to urban air pollution has a similar level of detriment to lung health as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. The policy and commercial pressures on our cities to green up are only likely to increase in the coming years with the direction of travel for a tightening regime around environmental standards.