It’s not easy being green: London Assembly calls for a ‘team effort’ to save parks

The London Assembly has called for ‘forward thinking’ to help protect parks and green spaces in London from more austerity cuts.

In a report published today (5 July), the Assembly’s environment committee warns that the capital’s parks face an uncertain future due to limited public sector funds and are not currently being used to their full potential.

The report calls on London mayor Sadiq Khan to appoint green infrastructure commissioner or champion to help improve access to green spaces.

According to the report, half of all households in London live too far away – more than 400 metres – from the nearest green space, as recommended in the London Plan.

It also recommends the mayor set out a specific action plan to improve the amount of green space data available to help target investment that improves access to, and quality of, open spaces.

In addition, it suggests the mayor work with London boroughs to look at alternative delivery models to run parks and green spaces.

And it also calls on the Greater London Authority to set up a single, citywide website with details about all of London’s green spaces, including ways to get involved and a crowdfunding function.

‘It is no longer the case that we can rely on local councils alone to maintain our parks and other green spaces,’ said committee chair, Leonie Cooper.

‘The money is simply not available. They will still play a central role, but need support.

‘This report encourages forward thinking to ensure London’s parks and green spaces – which are renowned throughout the world – are not only protected but also improved,’ added Ms Cooper.

‘We recommend that volunteers play a key role, crowdfunding is explored, and private investment is encouraged across the board.

‘We’re calling for a team effort – with the mayor supporting the public and private sectors to work with Londoners to protect and improve our green spaces.’

Have a Field Day

The London Assembly report comes as the charity Fields in Trust prepares for its National Have a Field Day on 8 July, which aims to showcase the health and wellbeing benefits of green spaces.

The charity is organised hundreds of events in parks across the country for the event.

‘Each of the thousands of parks, playing fields and playgrounds across the UK is valuable to the neighbourhood that it serves,’ said charity chief executive, Helen Griffiths.

‘Fields in Trust believe we should re-value our green spaces as resources, which contribute to public health, mental wellbeing and community cohesion, [and] not simply view them as a drain on council finances.

‘If you love your local park, we encourage you to get together with neighbours on 8 July and celebrate our precious parks and playing fields,’ added Ms Griffiths.

In February, the communities and local government select committee called on local authorities to draw up strategic plans, which recognised the value of parks and show how they will use them to tackle wider issues, like healthy lifestyles, social exclusion and flood risks.

This followed a lengthy inquiry into the state of public parks, which was the subject of an in depth feature by Environment Journal in November.

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Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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