I walked up all of these today. #StepUpMountain 20th floor in Battersea's Somerset estate. #StepUpMountain

What if… #London was a National Park?

Over the last few months I have visited all fifteen of the UK’s National Parks. Together they include mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands, but as someone who lives and works in London I think there is a crucial habitat missing… an urban habitat.

What if London was the world’s first Urban National Park?

Britain’s built-up area physically covers around 7% of land and is home to a diverse range of (wild)life. The London Biodiversity Partnership has identified 15 different habitats in Greater London and more than 1,300 sites have been identified as being of value to wildlife (though I am sure there are many more). Casting a spot-light on amphibians and reptiles alone, nine of the thirteen species (common frogs, common toads, smooth newts, palmate newts, great crested newts, slow-worms, common lizards, grass snakes and adders) can be found within the M25. The Central London RSPB group has a list of 132 species of bird that you can find in London and if you know where to look you can find brown hares, otters and dormice too. Of course there is also an eclectic range of humans who together speak over 300 different languages along with their domestic pets and those less popular creatures including foxes, rats and pigeons.

Green Grid Map

London itself is very much a land of parks. At least 3,000 public parks, woodlands and gardens cover 140sqkm of London, but when you include private gardens and other green areas London’s total green space covers 628 sqkm or 40% of the city. In comparison to current UK National Parks at  1,572 sqkm London would be the 5th largest after the Lake District (2,292 sqkm), Snowdonia Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri (2,142 sqkm), the Yorkshire Dales (1,769 sqkm) and the South Downs (1,641 sqkm). Compared to its 628 sqkm of green space London would still be the 11th biggest.

National Parks in the UK are administered by their own National Park authorities. These are independent bodies that are funded by central government to:

    • conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and
    • promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.

There are a number of pan-London organisations working to improve the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the city and there are also organisations working hard to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of London, but I do not think they achieve what a National Parks status would. By rethinking, reframing and replanning itself as a National Park I can imagine a wide range of possible benefits for London. These could include improvements to biodiversity, architecture, green-ways, outdoor education, accessibility, how the city markets itself to the outside world and crucially, how the city sees itself.

By reframing itself as a National Park there could be a major shift in how London and Londoners think of themselves and how those outside London imagine the city. These include London as being a:

  • large archipelago of green spaces
  • wild destination to be proud of… right on (y)our doorstep
  • space where you have the right to roam, explore, play and learn
  • place where humans are recognised as animals and part of the world’s ecosystem
  • place where buildings and systems are seen as an urban habitat that is shared with other life
  • city that embraces domestic and feral animals as part of a city’s innate and historic ecology
  • city where large number of inhabitants recognise and enjoy their own great outdoors

In the city such an effort could change the way that the next generation thinks of and values their urban park and what can be discovered inside it.  Who knows what seeing (y)our entire city as a National Park could do for its and our development, psyche and outlook.

The River Brent near where I live.

 

About these ads

3 Comments on “What if… #London was a National Park?”

  1. Tiago Salavessa says:

    This is a fantastic idea Dan. The whole notion of London as a huge city could be greatly improved, especially by the next generations born post transition from “city” to “national park”. Tend to think that, in this case, it helps not to know how it used to be. You know as part of history but not by having experienced it.
    Considering the emotional links that people have with other national parks, how proud they are, how respectful and caring they feel about them, imagining that same attitude towards the city you live in is a very attractive idea.

  2. Frog Mom says:

    This is such an interesting idea, I love it! I concur that a larger umbrella organization would probably better define common goals and conservation rules than a lot of smaller non-profits. Wouldn’t it be great if visitors could follow nature trails inside the city’s parks, learn about biodiversity at ranger stations and volunteer to maintain and upgrade natural areas? Not to mention a common curriculum for schools and stricter seawage rules, something that canals would benefit a lot from. Next step – make waterways clean enough that they are swimmable:)

  3. Zain says:

    A very good idea, a city has its own ecology and ecosystems.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,648 other followers