The world’s first national park city

Last month, I found out about the Greater London National Park campaign, and I have to say I got surprised!

I had never thought such an initiative could be possible!

Basically, the idea is to make London the world’s first national park city – ‘national park cities’ do not exist yet, and they believe that it is such an opportunity that should be taken. They say:

London is an incredibly diverse place. 8.3 million humans speaking 300 languages share the city with 13,000 wild species as well as lots of cats and dogs. (…) 60% of London is open land and 47% of Greater London is green. As well as the 3,000 parks, 142 local nature reserves, 36 sites of special scientific interest, 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 2 National Nature Reserves within the city’s limits, there are 3.8 million private gardens. For its size, London is one of the very greenest cities in the world – something to celebrate.”

Map of the Greater London National Park, as published on the campaign website

Map of the Greater London National Park, as published on the campaign website

What would change?

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a Guerrilla Geographer and campaigner, wrote an article on the Guardian, explaining:

The statutory purpose of national park status is to ‘conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area’ and ‘promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the park by the public.’ What if we took these ideas and applied them to London? I think this would radically change how we see, think about, design, manage and experience the city.”

Supporters of the campaign, as published on its website

Supporters of the campaign, as published on its website

He defendes that by being active outdoors in green space would improve collective health. Also, costs with air quality, climate change and flooding could be mitigated by a strong greening strategy that boosts natural habitats.

Arnos Park, London Borough of Enfield, N11. Photo: Ewan Munro - https://www.flickr.com/photos/55935853@N00/

Arnos Park, London Borough of Enfield, N11. Photo: Ewan Munro – https://www.flickr.com/photos/55935853@N00/

For the ones asking why should Londoners allow another layer of governance or saying it looks like a new bit of paper for status, they answer:

This is not a proposal to change planning policy in the capital. The Greater London National Park would not have the planning powers that so many residents in current National Parks dislike. Nor would it replace the thousands of organisations who are already doing incredible work across the capital. (…) The Park’s leadership role would be to inform and inspire best practice, help better to co-ordinate and promote London’s biodiversity and recreational opportunities.”

What are your thoughts? They’ve got a very complete website, with loads of information, and a petition to be signed.

They also support the Garden Bridge, which we have already spoken about.

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Taking legacy seriously

Next Saturday, April 5, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will open to the public. Yes, that’s what you read – Olympic. After the 2012 games, an entity called London Legacy Development Corporation became responsible for the redevelopment of the park, and followed their goal of driving the legacy of the Olympic park to transform the lives of east Londoners.

So, yes again, this is about legacy, and how it can be properly conducted.

park 3

It will be a 24-hour public garden and recreation area with playgrounds, parklands and activity trails. People can swim, climb, relax, walk and cycle on a 500 acre space. There will also be a theatre, an amphitheatre and a nature reserve.

One of the most expected attractions is the 114.5m tall ArcelorMittal Orbit, or just The Orbit Tower, and tickets for it are already on sale – a new perspective on London from above, and we can never get tired of it!

Orbit 1

The complex structure — part sculpture, part viewing tower — was designed as a landmark for the London 2012 Games. With two observation floors, at 76m and 80m, it provides stunning views over the park and across London’s skyline. This time-lapse photography shows the Orbit taking shape beside the Olympic Stadium, on March 2012:

Think about something you’d like to have in a weekend with friends or family. Fountains? Checked. Waterways? Checked. Artworks? Checked. Biodiversity? Checked. Culture, climbing walls, restaurants? Guess what: checked. Can’t you make up your mind? At least, use the park map to get situated.

Orbit 3

In fact, the northern of the park and its arena have been open since July 2013, and more than a million visitors have been there for concerts, festivals and sporting events last summer. On Saturday, the south of the park opens, as well as the Orbit, and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre opens in May.

There are plans it will host five matches during Rugby World Cup 2015, be the permanent home of West Ham United Football Club from 2016, and the new national competition stadium for athletics in the UK hosting regional and national age group championships.

park 1

The nearest station is Stratford (tube, DLR and Overground), where staff will be on hand to guide everyone to the park. There will be an accessible shuttle bus from Stratford Regional Station every 15-20 minutes.

Easy to access, multiple activities, planned for different ages, dwellers and tourists: there is space for everyone in this new London park – but for white elephants.