BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 31 May '15

Bold crowdfunding campaign could transform London into the world’s first National Park City

Supported by MP Zac Goldsmith, architect Sir Terry Farrell and comedian-turned-conservationist Bill Oddie, campaigners say that making London a National Park City will improve health, quality of life, prosperity and the environment for Londoners.

Campaigners need public support to win over the Mayor of London, London Councils and communities across the capital. If successful, London would become the world’s first National Park City.

Londoners can show their support by donating on the Crowdfunder website.

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Protection and value

The new movement, at a key stage in its development, plans to distribute a broadsheet newspaper-style proposal, full of specially commissioned maps and photos, to 100,000 Londoners.

‘People protect what they value. Making London a National Park City is a celebration of the capital’s remarkable natural heritage – but it’s also one vision to inspire a million projects that will improve the quality of our lives and the city itself.

‘As we welcome more people into our increasingly dense city, we need to make our parks and other shared spaces even better. Using them improves our health, happiness, wellbeing and productivity. Making London a National Park City will be a great way to achieve this.’

Daniel Raven-Ellison, geographer and explorer, campaign leader

Representing urban habitats

The Greater London National Park City would in some ways be similar to the National Parks in England and Wales – from the Cairngorms and the Yorkshire Dales to the South Downs. It would enhance our cultural heritage, foster the wellbeing of communities and put urban habitats on the map.

‘Just because the traditional notion of a national park is a rural conservation area, why shouldn’t urban habitats, with their network of green belts, parks, gardens and waterways be afforded the same reverence?

‘Urban life is just as important as remote rural life, and city dwellers, habitats and landscapes deserve to be conserved, enhanced and promoted too. After all, most of the population doesn’t access traditional national parks.’

Daniel Raven-Ellison

A new kind of park

The campaign is proposing a people’s park: a new, dynamic kind of National Park that sits outside current legislation. Londoners could start using the city’s waterways to canoe to work and the park could create a number of public health initiatives: more adventurous architecture and planning could be encouraged to physically challenge people to be more active.

National parks cost less than £1 per person, yet they contribute up to £6.3bn to the economy each year. Stacks of research show green space can help improve mental health conditions (which cost London £26bn a year) and obesity (which costs £900m a year – £7m of which is spent on childhood obesity, with one in five of the capital’s children overweight).

Being active outdoors in green space through play, walks, green gyms, adventure activities and organised sports are ideal ways to improve our collective health. More details can be found in the campaign’s Green Paper http://www.greaterlondonnationalpark.org.uk/get-involved/consultation/.

The numbers

Here’s what Greater London National Park City would look like.

  • 1,572 km² in area, making it the 7th-largest National Park in the UK
  • 152 mile circumference – London’s orbital footpath is longer than most national park trails
  • 13,000 species of wildlife, including 13 species of reptile and amphibian within the M25
  • 2 special protection areas, 3 special areas of conservation, 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 36 sites of special scientific interest
  • 2 national nature reserves, 142 local nature reserves, 1300 sites are recognised by the GLA as being of value to wildlife
  • 60% is open and undeveloped land, 47% green space, 22% green belt
  • 3,000 parks, 3.8 million gardens (24%), 30,000 allotments, 6% sports areas
  • 2.5% river, canals and reservoirs

Political support

Striving to raise £30,000 to launch a ‘big, bold and unavoidable proposal’ to Londoners, the campaign has received support across London’s main political parties. Labour London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi said, ‘Londoners.. persuade our mayoral candidates that [the National Park City] should be part of their vision.’

Baroness Jenny Jones tweeted, ‘We Greens will support the National Park for Londoners’ and Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith called on the public to ‘sign up to this campaign, get behind it, fund it and champion it from the rooftops’.

If the campaign’s successful and the Greater London National Park City is officially recognised, those that donate could have their name engraved in a Founders’ Stone located in a public place in the capital.

Click here to help to make London the world’s first National Park City.