In August, three years after the London National Park City campaign began, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan set aside £9million for the ‘Greener City Fund’, in order to ‘create and improve green spaces and encourage more tree planting in London’.
This goal is the first step towards the official declaration of London as the world’s first National Park City. This week saw the launch of the National Park City Foundation, where Chair Steve Head welcomed trustees and supporters of the Foundation, and invited various influential individuals to speak about their vision for London as a National Park City.
‘The only difference really between a national park and a national park city,’ explains Daniel Raven-Ellison, Chief Exploration Officer of the National Park City Foundation, ‘is the acknowledgement that the urban environment, the urban habitat, the urban landscape, is just as important as rainforest, or polar regions, or a desert area. It’s not more important, it’s not less important, but we shouldn’t alienate ourselves from nature just because we are the dominate species within this landscape. Acknowledging that opens up all kinds of opportunities. We have nine million people living in London, and we have all kinds of challenges, from overflowing sewers, to air pollution, to children having mental health problems because they’re not playing outdoors enough. The solution is in each and every one of us through the daily things that we can all do – which I think is very empowering.’
Imagining how the city could change appearance through becoming a national park city has been made easier by the work of designers, artists and architects, who entered a competition over the summer to help create a vision for a greener London. Four winning entries were chosen, depicting rewilded streets, tree-lined cycle routes, a green bus network, and even an entire ‘living network’ across the city.
‘What we want to do as a Foundation is be the guardians of the National Park City vision,’ continues Raven-Ellison, ‘and offer a platform to galvanise people through campaigns, and co-ordinate action, and increase investment into the sector. We need far more of that. In practice, that means making the majority of London physically green. If every Londoner greened one square metre, we would hit that target. We should want to connect 100 per cent of children to nature. That is possible through parents understanding the vital importance of those formative years of life and beyond, and also through schools as well. Let’s think of London not just as a political, cultural and financial centre, but let’s recognise it as an ecological centre too.’
The London National Park City Foundation timeline is clear and ambitious: next year, to declare London as a National Park City, and then, in 2019, to officially launch it.
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