National Federation of Parks and Green Spaceswww.natfedparks.org.uk
Parks Federation meet with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and call for Government action to protect green spaces and prevent UK parks' slide into crisis
On 27th October the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces met up with Government Minister Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Dave Morris, the Campaigns Officer of the Federation, was part of a deputation organised by the Protect Dundonald Rec Campaign, who've been leading a 4yr-long local community campaign, backed by thousands of supporters, to prevent the loss of public open space in their much-loved and well-used park in Merton, south London. The Minister was asked to exercise his powers to revoke a controversial Merton Council grant of a planning application to transfer some of the park's public facilities (including tennis courts) to a local school, in breach of local, regional and national planning policies. [Details below]. As this raises issues of national importance, the local deputation was supported by the Federation and also a representative of the Open Spaces Society. The local MP also attended in support. The Minister is expected to respond in a number of weeks.
Dave Morris explained to the Minister that the wider context of the planning dispute was the national 'slide into crisis' caused by the underfunding for maintenance and management of the UK's public green spaces. He presented to the Minister a copy of the Summer 2014 Report: The State of UK Public Parks 2014 – Renaissance to Risk? He urged him to read it, and particularly drew attention to the highly relevant and alarming statistic revealed by the report that '45% of Local Authorities are considering either selling parks and green spaces or transfering their management to others’. Mr Morris pressed the Minister to support the Federation's calls for the Government to hold a National Inquiry into the funding and management of the UK’s green spaces, bring in a Statutory Duty to monitor and manage these spaces to Green Flag Award standard, and ensure adequate public resources for all green spaces. [See full Federation letter to the Minister, below].
Background to the Merton planning dispute
The Dundonald Campaigners say: ' The Merton planning application breaches all national, regional, and local planning policies which protect public open space and sports facilities. There is nothing in planning policy which can be used to justify these breaches. Agreed policy does not allow educational provision to override protection of public open space. Allowing this planning application to proceed would have major implications for public access to open space and sports facilities, so we are asking Eric Pickles to revoke the grant of planning permission. Failure to revoke would legitimise the breaches and undermines national policy.
' We have lost 2,578sqm of our local recreation ground, Dundonald Rec, because Merton Council wants to expand a local primary school by building on the site. This land is very well used for sport and recreation. It was originally protected by a covenant from 1896, but this has been overriden. The Local Authority has granted itself planning permission for the development (despite objections from over 2,000 local residents and users of the Rec) and then appropriated the land from recreational open space to educational use.
' Protect Dundonald Rec brought a legal challenge but we were unable to persuade the court that the Council had failed to follow the process. However, during the court hearing it became clear that the Council had misrepresented the status of the land to Sport England. Sport England had withdrawn its original objection to the scheme based on this information. If Sport England had continued to object to the loss of sports fields then the matter would have been referred to the Secretary of State. '
Letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local AuthoritiesFrom the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
We represent the ‘grass-roots’ movement of 5,000 local Friends of Parks Groups.
I am sure you are aware of the vital and unique role of the UK’s highly-popular and much-loved green spaces: they are central to our communities and to family life, vital for public health and happiness, and deliver a wide range of essential environmental services (biodiversity, flood control, urban climate cooling etc).
Please find enclosed a copy of the most important and authoritative report in 20 years about the UK’s public green spaces, published this summer: The State of UK Public Parks 2014 – Renaissance to Risk?
Despite the Report’s cautious and understated approach it concludes that, due to ongoing reductions in maintenance and management budgets, the UK’s parks and green spaces are ‘at serious risk of slipping back into decline as they did in the 1970s and 1980s.’
It also found that ‘45% of Local Authorities are considering either selling parks and green spaces or transferring their management to others’.This alarming statistic underlines the need for an urgent and effective Government response to the Dundonald case in order to provide protection to urban public green space.
However, as set out in the Report, the threats to public green spaces go much further and deeper, and require immediate strategic action to avert the looming crisis.
We are calling on the Government, especially the next Government in 2015, to:
- Hold a National Inquiry into the funding and management of the UK’s green spaces
- Bring in a Statutory Duty to monitor and manage these spaces to Green Flag Award standard
- Ensure adequate public resources for all green spaces
As Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government we are asking you to support this, and to support the UK’s parks and green spaces.
Campaigns Officer, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
SLM WEEKLY DIGEST 24 OCTOBER 2014
This is the Weekly Digest of Save Lea Marshes. SLM is a group of people in the Lea Valley area working to keep the local marshes and other green space – open, sustainable and free for wildlife and people. Please visit our websitewww.saveleamarshes.org.uk for further information and for ordering our merchandise to help fund our voluntary work. A new calendar will be on the site next week!
There is an absence of major new stories this week but SLM members are continuing to “beaver” away getting information; preparing for forthcoming local authority meetings as well as, the Planning Inspectorate next year, when it will be looking at the proposals to build new car parks and a new sports pavilion on currently green Metropolitan Open Land by Hackney Council. We also continue to tackle other issues, as previously reported, such as the plans to build a hoggin path alongside Sandy Lane by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.
If there is a theme this week, then it is the overall future of our parklands and green spaces. I would suggest for those of you who haven’t already seen it, to read the Observer Review Section published last Sunday 19 October pages 8-11 which has a feature by Rowan Moore “We need to Talk About The Green Belt” to get an overview of the current arguments that abound. There was also an excellent feature on last Saturday’s Robert Elm’s Show on BBC Radio London, talking about London’s parks, centred on Victoria Park in East London being voted favourite Park – so do check the BBC iPlayer for that.
On the theme of the above, there is an all day (9.30-5.00 p.m.) “Sustainable Green Infrastructure” Conference, at the British Library on 23 October. SLM have got to hear about this through our participation in the London Parks and Green Spaces Association. Further information can be gained from firstname.lastname@example.org or the Green and Social Engineeringinfo@GreenSocialEngineering.
org There are lots of different organisations represented and a wide range of topics focusing on greening the economy and the sustainable living agenda.
Mabley Green Edible Park is starting to plant a forest of edible plants this Saturday 25 October at 11.00 a.m. (see article in this week’s Hackney Gazette). Meet at the Tree Nursery, entrance of Marsh Centre Car Park, Homerton Road E9.
Secondary Modern – there is a talk by ex-Councillor for Bow, Mark Taylor about his recent trip to Cuba and in particular about how community centres known as CDRs operate there on Tuesday 28 October 7.00-9.00 p.m. at the Nye Bevan Community Centre, Nye Bevan Estate, Homerton Road E5 0AQ. To RSVP contact Siraj atOct28@secondarymodern.org
Secondary Modern is an initiative that seeks to take estates beyond housing and build real communities. Its ethos is to share – ideas, subjects to talk about, food, drink... sounds like something really worth getting involved with.
Meanwhile, over at Dalston’s Curve Garden, Dalston Lane, Hackney (another hub of activity), there are some seasonal pumpkin sculpturing going on – making lanterns on Saturday 25 October (1.00-5.00pm) and Sunday (1.00-4.00pm), followed by a Lantern Show on Sunday at 5.30pm until late. Activities are free but donations welcomed. There will also be half-term activities going on next week from 2.00-4.00 p.m. every day – again these are free but with donations. email@example.com You can also vote for the garden in the “Time Out” “Love London Awards”, E8 section
Last, but by no means least – SLM are organising a Halloween Bat Walk on Friday 31 October meeting at the Old Changing Rooms, by Cow Bridge on Hackney North Marsh at 7.30pm. We’ll be aiming to see if we can spot any bats.. Fancy dress (as a bat) optional.. Just turn up, if you fancy a night-time walk on the witching night.
Next SLM Meeting will be (note different venue) at 7.30 at the Crooked Billet pub, Upper Clapton Road on Monday 3 November. If we know by then, the date of the LBH planning meeting to discuss the North Marshes Pavilion is imminent we’ll be having an ordinary meeting. If not, then we will take part in the weekly quiz there instead, with a view to fundraising.
Monday, 20 October 2014
SLM WEEKLY DIGEST 16.10.14
This is the Weekly Digest of Save Lea Marshes. We are a group of Lea Valley area residents, concerned to see the wonderful green spaces of the marshes and other local green space saved for wildlife and future generations of children and local people to enjoy. To find out more and be kept up to date with our work please see our website and our blog
There will be a new item added to our sales page soon. We will be launching our SLM 2015 Calendar featuring the winning photos from the What I love about the marshes exhibition. It will be the “must have” calendar of the year and make an excellent Christmas present. So don’t buy a calendar until you hear that ours is available. It will be fabulous, local and funds raised will go towards our campaign.
From beautiful nature to less beautiful corporate adverts – this week’s Hackney Citizen has an article about Hackney Council’s decision to use the entire façade of Hackney Marshes User Centre for a giant advert for trainers. As the Council have promised £30,000 of the funds raised to go to sport, the group supporting the new building on North Marsh have supported the move. This doesn’t bode well for what we will be allowed on the new pavilion building. Our pavilion or Adidas’s pavilion, we wonder…
Following on from last week – Mayor Jules Pipe has replied to our petition and that of those supporting the Council’s present plans for a new pavilion. Our response is on our blog here.
Petitions to see the North Pavilion built on the site of the current changing rooms and no additional car parks are still live, up until planning committee meet. The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority’s (LVRPA) Lower Lee Valley meeting came to the decision to object to plans in their present guise, following SLM and Hackney Marshes User Group representation, due to the adverse impact on Metropolitan Open Land in Lee Valley Park.
TRIANGLE-ULATED - correspondence about the fencing off of the piece of Network Railway Land continues. Network Rail are sticking to their reasons of closure being trespass, possible theft and as yet non-specific “illegal activities” as well as, overall safety being the main reasons and state that OSS maps do not show public access rights.
LOOKS LIKE THE BACK OF A BUS – If you haven’t seen the advert yet – look out for a similarly sinister No.38 “Boris” Bus, the design isn’t just on the back ..
LITTER-ARY DEBATE – following the letter from a representative of Camden Football Club in the “Hackney Gazette” last week about “people with dogs littering the marshes” – the debate has continued with a counter claim that the fault of littering was mainly the footballers. Chair of the Hackney and Leyton Football Club has responded and called for more litter bins on the marshes.
MORE FRACKING HELL – the petition of the week is Greenpeace urging people to get their M.P.’s to strike out Cameron’s updating of the law in Parliament this week to allow fracking companies “to pump ‘any substance’ under people’s homes and property and leave it there”. Go here
HASHTAG FOR LONDON NATIONAL PARK CAMPAIGN – the other contender this week is this campaign’s request for people to join the “thunderclap”, basically a way of getting #AskBoris on Twitter to listen to the #LondonNationalPark en masse.
AN INTERESTING READ – October’s Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s Bulletin: items of interest include their criticisms of the Olympic Legacy Planning; Thames Tideway Tunnel, Cycling superhighways and Active Cities.
“ALL ‘ALE THE HEATHCOTE CAMPAIGN” – this Leytonstone pub campaign has prompted Waltham Forest’s Council Leader to ensure that the community has a say in the future of every pub in the borough see www.guardian-series.co.uk/news
Shame the esteemed leader is not so equally concerned about the loss of green space in the borough....
DES RES - spotted in this week’s “Private Eye” Rotten Borough’s was a councillor from York who has come up with idea of using his town hall’s surrounding green frontage as a place for a travellers’ site. Perhaps a Waltham Forest Councillor might come up with a similar proposal on their sumptuous green site?
Litter Bugs on Tour – a collection of beasties made from recycled materials by Michelle Reader and local children can be seen at The Mill, 7-11 Coppermill Lane E17 7HA from Tuesday October 21 to Saturday November 22. There is also a musical celebration on Thursday October 23 from 6-8.30 p.m. Details and information from: 020 8521 3211.
Next SLM meeting with be on Monday 20 October at 7.30 at the Princess of Wales pub, Lea Bridge Road. New people welcome.
SLM WEEKLY DIGEST 10 OCTOBER 2014
This is the Weekly Digest of Save Lea Marshes. We are an open group of people from the Lea Valley area campaigning to keep the marshes open and green for the preservation and nurturing of wildlife and the enjoyment of people. More about our work can be found on our websitewww.saveleamarshes.org.uk
As we are now in the season of mellow fruitfulness, what is in the SLM basket this week?
THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST CAR PARKS CONTINUES:
This week’s dominant issue continues to be Hackney Marshes North Pavilion and the two car parks. If you have already objected to Common Land Consent being given for “works to Hackney Marshes” and the building on current green space, please apply to attend, speak or send in a written submission explaining why you this the proposed loss of common land is not justified. The inquiry will be held next year (no date at present) but you need to confirm your attendance by 15 October. If you wish to speak, you will need to give a rough idea of how long you would like to speak for. There is still time to do this, if you haven’t already. Email: Naoual.
Margoum@pins.gsi.gov.uk (all details on our website too)
We do not have a date for the Hackney Planning Committee where the issue will also be discussed but expect this to be soon.
Meanwhile opinions are still being aired on the issue. Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney has “piped up” by responding to our Change.org. petition whilst not mentioning the two car parks planned (!) and directing people to the Council's justification here: http://news.hackney.gov.
uk/en/plans-for-hackney- marshes The letters page of the Hackney Gazette (p.18) features letters from Dick Caylor of the Camden Sunday Football League, who assumes that all other users are dog owners who litter the pitches and from Johnnie Walker, Chairman of the Hackney Football League, who now declares that he agrees with SLM on some points (hurrah!).
We've done our maths which proves the requirements of the sporting bodies and sports people can be accommodated on the existing footprint, with very little loss of useable space, not incur further destruction of the marshes and also be less intrusive on open views of Hackney Marshes. We have never disputed that the old changing rooms are a disgrace and need to be replaced with modern facilities. We oppose the unnecessary large car parks planned on East and North Marsh.
ADDING UP ADIDAS – Few people who have gone across the marshes or travelled along Homerton Road could have failed to spot that the award winning “Rusty Box” has been covered by a huge orange and black sponsorship hoarding for a famous sports company, previously in the news for its use of sweatshops. The hoarding received permission on the basis it would be of far smaller dimensions and have faced the other side of the building - the car park!
The multinational has got in there ready for a big sports tournament this Saturday 11 October on East Marsh. Interesting questions have been raised regarding the reinstatement of East Marsh – does the sports tournament indicate that the reinstatement is complete? If so, shouldn’t this mean that the car park then becomes unlawful according to previous arguments about the LLDC lease? Hmm...
COUNTRY LIFE/STRIFE – it is a pity that the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority’s annualCountryside Live event designed to educate children from local schools on countryside life and care of nature, leaves Leyton Marsh looking such a mess afterwards – holes in the ground, litter and marks where stands and fences have been. Not the picture that features in the current Hackney Today extolling its virtues.
Monday 13th October – Sustainable Hackney is organising the “Big Green Pow Wow on Air Quality and Transport Planning and Policy for Hackney”. It will be held at the Arcola Theatre at 7.30 p.m. Even if you can’t attend the meeting, you have until the 24 October to comment. Details can be found via the Hackney Council Website and on Sustainable Hackney.
Saturday 25th October - 11am- 3pm Mabley Green Users host a 'Make Grow Do' Launch with local ecologist Annie Chipchase including a tour of the Tree Nusery and introduction to permaculture and forest gardening. Looks like an event not to miss ( if you can get over the sponsorship by the Olympic Park body, sigh).
The campaign to get London to be the first National Park City (mentioned in previous digests) is gathering pace. There will be a major conference “Reimagining London: What if we made London a National Park?” will be held on 24 February from 10.30 to 16.30 at the Purcell Room on South Bank. Early bird tickets are available now on EventBrite.
We hear via our friends at Belair Park that the London Wildlife Trust (LWT) will be organising two Fungi Walks on Saturday 18th October and Sunday 9 November at Sydenham Wood, South London. These are not foraging walks and will be led by experts. Booking in advance is essential via firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0207 252 9186
The next SLM Meeting will be on Monday 20 October, 7.30 at The Princess of Wales pub. All welcome.
Hackney Marshes Users Group
Monday, 6 October 2014
This is the weekly digest of Save Lea Marshes. We are an open group of people from the Lea Valley area campaigning to keep the marshes open and green for all - including our wildlife. Our latest blogs can be found here and our latest news, as well as shop and events pages can be found on our website: http://www.
Firstly, a big apology to all for the lack of a digest and information via our hotmail address. We had a technical problem with access that took longer to sort out than we anticipated, due to Kafkaesque communication with Microsoft!
To end this week, we were treated to the sight of a rare visitor - a nightjar - which made its home in the filter beds before flying off for a very long migration to Africa! Remember you can still see a range of lovely photos from the marshes at Vestry House Museum - the last host of our 'What I Love About the Marshes' exhibition.
We are in the midst of our campaign to get the planned North Marsh Pavilion built on the existing footprint of the old changing rooms - rather than the Council slapping a huge car park there and sticking the proposed building on presently green open space. We are continuing with our campaign to see East Marsh fully restored to sports pitches and public use after the Olympics, as was promised.
To get you up-to-date:· SLM attended the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority’s Lower Lee Valley meeting. The LVRPA had been asked to comment on L.B. Hackney’s plans. After our intervention, we are happy to report that the LVRPA voted against supporting the plans as they currently stood.
· We succeeded in getting a large number of people to object to the Planning Inspectorate, whose approval is needed for any development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) - resulting in a public enquiry. Hackney Marshes is common land, protected MOL and part of the Lee Valley Park. We are asking everyone who can to attend this enquiry to speak in favour of protecting this open land for all and against the two large car parks proposed. You should have got an invite if you made an objection.
· As a result of this enquiry, the report which was due to go to Hackney Planning Committee has been withdrawn. It may be discussed in November instead. If you haven't already, please make your objection to the Planning Committee. details on our SLM website.
· Some of us also went to meet with organisers and parents involved in the Stoke Newington Cricket Club. After much coverage in the local press, we wanted to put the record straight that we are not against sports and are not objecting to a pavilion, as long as it is of a good design; has the required number of changing rooms and is built on the existing site with minimal car parking. We are keen to have good relations but want to ensure a balance that suits all users of the marsh and its wildlife. We are also against an unnecessary proliferation of car use on the green space for environment health and safety reasons.
· SLM have criticised the use of private planning consultants and this has resulted in LBH putting out a statement on their website: “Why Planning Consultants have been used for Hackney Marshes applications”. While you are looking this up, you might also be interested to see that the Council have defended the 15m high advert plastered over one whole side of the Hackney Marshes User Centre. The planning officer who gave permission for the advert described it as 'sensitive in terms of its size, scale and visual appearance'. Judge for yourself. it's there until 18th October.
MORE ON THE PAVILION/CAR PARKS ISSUE - Over the last three or four weeks, there has been a lot of coverage in both the Hackney Citizen and Hackney Gazette. The letters page of the Gazette has featured many letters from different points of view about the Council's marshes proposals - some of our members have their say in this week’s edition on p.16. Also featured on page 2 of the Gazette is a picture of the Stoke Newington Cricket Club on the green space planned for the new build alongside an article explaining the Planning Inspectorate enquiry for the proposals.
ALSO IN THE PRESS – an article on p.11 of the Gazette “Residents urged to block change in planning laws” – the mayor urging us all to join a campaign against a proposal to change planning law, which could lead to "luxury homes for millionaires, while depriving local people of jobs”. Precisely what local people have been trying to do over the matter of building at Abney Park, where the Council are supporting the developers. On a related topic on page 5 we have “Judicial Review set to rule on historic Dalston Lane Houses" - which we've just heard has been given consent to proceed at the High Court. There is also a “Parklife” feature on p.p.22/3 on “Wildlife flock to new wetland habitat” in the Olympic Park.
Meanwhile over in Waltham Forest, the “Waltham Forest Guardian”
www.guardian-series.co.uk reports on local M.P. Stella Creasy criticising LBWF over its lack of providing enough information regarding the “mini Holland style” cycling lanes, which have caused disruption in recent days. Also the Council is being told to curb its free newspaper by local Conservatives.
Our friends at Hedge Herbs are doing a lot over the coming weeks – on Sunday 5 October from 12-3.00 p.m. they will be doing Medicine Making at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Peckham, in cooperation with the Potted History Project, a gardening and reminiscence group, to prepare seasonal remedies. This might be a trip across town but it is always worth exploring what other areas of London have to offer. Back in Walthamstow on Saturday 11 October, they will be present at the Apple Day at Vestry House Museum, where herbal goods, crafts etc, will be available. For further details and information on these and other up-coming events and courses, contact Rasheeqa on 07784506494 or see Hedge Herbs on Facebook.
Also outside of our manor but worth supporting is “Keep the Green Reclaim the Commons” aimed at maintaining access to Greenwich Green common land. It is this Saturday 4 October from 2.00 p.m. – go to Bardsley Lane (Deptford end), and meet at the Skate park SE10 9SW.
National Park for London
47 per cent of London is green space: Is it time for our capital to become a national park?
Daniel Raven-Ellison: 'We have eight million trees in London; the world’s largest urban forest'
Thursday 25 September 2014
High up on a grassy hillock alive with wild flowers, a man wearing a beard and sturdy shoes addresses more than 100 young explorers.
The sun strikes their faces and the surrounding landscape. It would be a scene of bucolic wonder were it not for the bottle tops and fag ends at their feet, the concrete and glass blocks that dominate the skyline, and the rumble of flight paths, railways and the frantic Mile End road.
Yet former geography teacher Daniel Raven-Ellison, who has to shout to be heard, has come to an oasis of green in what feels like East London’s grey desert to present a radical vision for the capital. He believes passionately that the eight million people inside the city – and everyone outside it – should change the way they see it. As part of an unlikely but rapidly growing new campaign that is as simple as it is ambitious, he is trying to turn London into Britain’s newest national park.
“We have eight million trees in London; the world’s largest urban forest,” he tells geography students from Queen Mary University, which sits just across the Regent’s Canal. They wear lanyards that mark them out as the first Greater London National Park rangers. “A few weeks ago I walked from Croydon to High Barnet, south to north, through as much woodland as I could. I saw foxes, I saw deer, grass snakes and woodpeckers. Guess how many children I saw?”
The first-year students, who are mostly strangers to each other, are quiet. A few suggest low numbers. “Zero!” Raven-Ellison answers.
“It was the Friday of half-term and I did not see a single child.” He adds, plaintively: “Did you know that in High Barnet there is a tree that’s 2,000 years old?”
As the 34-year-old makes his case for the world’s first urban national park, where children would not only play in the woods but also reimagine them, the initially bemused students almost visibly lean towards his argument. They then range out from Mile End Park across the city’s 33 boroughs. Their mission: to explore and photograph London’s great outdoors, to create an exhibition that will be displayed next month inside City Hall. Statistics that reveal the startling extent of London’s greenness feature heavily in Raven-Ellison’s campaign, which he started quietly in April with a Greater London National Park website (only a footnote points out that it is, for now, “officially a Notional Park”). The city covers more than 1,500 square kilometres, an area about the size of Surrey or South Yorkshire. More than 13,000 species, including humans, inhabit 3,000 parks, 30,000 allotments, three million gardens and two National Nature Reserves. Overall, 47 per cent of London is green space, and 60 per cent is classified as open space.
That green comes into glorious focus in a new map of the city made for the campaign by Greenspace Information for Greater London, a group that keeps environmental records. It excludes what we expect in a city map – roads, buildings, car parks, railways. The only things marked against a white background, apart from the Thames and its tributaries, are the green spaces. Yet thanks to their great spread, the map looks exactly like the London we think we know.
“Lots of us take the same routes through cities, day-in day-out,” Raven-Ellison says as he walks along the busy A11 to Mile End station. After a look around the park with the students assigned to this borough (Tower Hamlets) we are heading west to the City of London with Catherine Nash, professor of human geography at Queen Mary, to document green spaces there. “You’re alienated because you are surrounded by concrete, but that’s not the experience of the majority of life in the city.”
The daily view most of us have, of buildings and ways to get between them, dramatically skews our perceptions of geography. In 2011, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, the first comprehensive study of its kind, revealed that just 6.8 per cent of the UK’s land area is urban, including roads and rural development. But, as the 47 per cent figure shows in London, not all that land is built on. In England, the proportion of land that has been covered by concrete, asphalt or anything that can be classified as “built” is, wait for it... 2.27 per cent.
After an itinerant upbringing (his father was in the Royal Logistic Corps) Raven-Ellison settled in London to study and then teach geography. He is never happier than when exploring the other 97.73 per cent of England, not least inside city limits. His favourite green space? Boston Manor Park, a former country estate near his home in Northfields that is now constrained by offices, housing and the M4 flyover. “You come down the motorway and see treetops but your vision is of concrete and signage,” he says. “But just beneath you there is this hive of wilder space, a wilderness where kingfishers and herons hang out. I love that mix.”
Raven-Ellison escaped the confines of the classroom three years ago. He is now part of the Geography Collective of “guerrilla geographers” who want us all to reimagine the space around us. Last year, as part of a project for National Geographic, he and his now 11-year-old son visited all 15 national parks in the UK, from the Cairngorms in Scotland to Dartmoor in south-west England. The experience partly inspired his latest big idea.
“A city park or garden can be more ecologically diverse and rich, and provide more pleasure to a community, than a much wider area of land somewhere more remote,” he says. “What is it about our prejudice that means we value that space less, despite the fact we know it is even more important because of the benefits to our health and productivity, as well as the economy and business? Why would we deprive a major city of those benefits?”
National parks, which are managed by independent park authorities using central government funds, were a late arrival in Britain. Not long after Wordsworth described the Lake District as “a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”, the US led the way by establishing Yellowstone National Park, in 1872. It was not until 1951 that the Peak District became Britain’s first national park, thanks to post-war legislation.
Their popular image has become, perhaps, one of mountains, moors, forest or heath. But Britain’s 15 designated national parks already take in towns, villages and houses that are home to almost 450,000 people, about the population of Cardiff. Ever wandered the bustling streets of Lewes in East Sussex? You were in the South Downs, home to 120,000 people and, since 2010, the latest addition to the parks family.
According to National Parks UK, the government’s umbrella body, their purpose is “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of [their] special qualities”. Raven-Ellison sees no reason why this could not apply in a city. “A national park is a social construct,” he explains. “It’s traditionally applied to remote or rural settings but what if we flipped it and applied it to an urban setting… you can say that nature might be a smaller concern but that raises the question, what is nature, and the boundaries between it and people?”
We emerge from St Paul’s underground station to a familiar scene of traffic and stone. In front of the cathedral, London doesn’t feel very green. Five plane trees are reaching maturity as part of a new development. An older tree peeks out from down a side road, between branches of Strada and Yo Sushi. But that’s it for nature, at least to my eyes. “Look at these pigeons,” Raven-Ellison says. “We talk about them being feral but as far as they’re concerned they’re wild. Their distant relative is the rock dove, which lives on cliffs. Well, look around you. London is a cliff landscape, and that’s why these pigeons are really awesome at living here.”
These are the kinds of small shifts in focus that Raven-Ellison wants to inspire. And while he can come across as a geographical evangelist – an idealist with a fancy website – he’s serious about making the park real. In November, he will take the campaign to Sydney for the once-a-decade World Parks Congress. Official supporters at home include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the London Wildlife Trust. An online petition is gathering pace, and has already earned a response from the Mayor. Boris Johnson “welcomes the call for more recognition of the importance and value of London’s... natural environment” and “commends the campaign organisers for their inventiveness”. Sir Terry Farrell, the architect and a key design advisor to Boris, says the park “could be a powerful vision that could spawn a million projects”. He adds: “I intend to make the case to the Mayor.”
Natural England is the body that designates parks under the law passed after the war. A spokesperson says it is “supportive of the principle” of a London park, adding in a statement: “We note that the proposition would have the ethos, but not the traditional legal designation, of existing national parks.” The Mayor added doubt about the law in his response, but Raven-Ellison insists he or his successor could make it work. “We’ve had a very clear steer that because the idea of a city national park doesn’t exist yet, it’s something we can just do,” he explains. “And if we create a blueprint that works, the legislation could come later.”
As we approach Christ Church Greyfriars, a dazzling public garden planted in the ruin of a Sir Christopher Wren church that was destroyed in the Blitz, Raven-Ellison adds: “The point is, we wouldn’t want the park city to be the same as a national park anyway. Clearly it wouldn’t have the same planning regulations, for example.”
So what would it actually do?
“It’s about inspiring individuals to do small things, from the top down and the bottom up,” he says. “Imagine if Transport for London worked with the Greater London National Park and gave 5 per cent of advertising to a specific campaign each month looking at, say, song birds. Simple, strategic campaigns that could make an enormous difference to wildlife but also people’s consciousness of the benefits of green space.
“Forget HS2, let’s have HS3, a high-speed network for hedgehogs,” he adds. “They need about six gardens as territory. If we all put hedgehog-size holes in our fences, we’d have more in our gardens, and they’d eat the slugs and snails so many people dislike.”
Raven-Ellison says the park would be a “no-brainer” for corporations. The benefits to tourism are even clearer. He hopes also to talk to the group, led by Joanna Lumley and the designer Thomas Heatherwick, which is planning a “garden bridge” across the Thames between the South Bank and Temple. “The northern end has been calculated as the new geographic centre of London,” he says. “You could cross this urban gateway into the middle of the world’s first national park city.”
We walk down the aisle of what was the nave at Greyfriars. On either side, beds burst with roses, hydrangeas and purple penstemons. Besuited city workers sit on benches in the sun, juggling their phones and salad boxes. Raven-Ellison turns to his own phone to check the photos he has asked his student rangers to share as they explore his vision of the city. There are parks, canals, woods. Many could be mistaken for scenes of existing national parks.
“What really excites me is to think about children born in London now,” he says. “In five years’ time when they start school, imagine their teachers know that they’re in a Greater London National Park, and teach them differently about green space and nature. Then imagine them in 20 years, as they grow up to become architects or designers or planners. What ideas and solutions might they have to make us even healthier, even happier, and make this city even better?”
“To so support or find out more about the Greater London National Park campaign, go to http://www.
Save Lea Marshes
Save Lea Marshes
Please read to the end of this update to be informed of important news and vital suggested actions to help protect the marshes! Our hotmail account is currently out of action - we hope to have it back soon!
We have really good news to report. The Planning Inspectorate yesterday notified everyone who made an objection about the proposals for building on Hackney Marshes that there will be a public enquiry into the plans. This is recognition that the plans need further examination and may not be approved due to their impact on common land.
Public enquiries are held when:
· a lot of objections have been received in response to the application;
· the issues of the case are particularly complex;
· it appears to be the only way to obtain the information needed to decide the
There is no doubt that the petition and the objections the Planning Inspectorate received have helped lead to this decision to hold an enquiry, so thank you for everything you have done up to now.
The enquiry will be an opportunity for the applicant to explain their proposals but also for witnesses to explain their objections. If you were someone who kindly took the time to make an objection, please check that you received a notification of the decision. We strongly urge everyone who possibly can toregister to attend the enquiry. If you attend, you can explain how the proposals will adversely affect you as a user of the common land of Hackney Marshes. We will notify everyone of how to go about registering soon and will include this information on our website: www.saveleamarshes.org.uk
We realise that many of you will not have attended such an event before, however we will provide support and guidance to everyone who wishes to attend, outlining how to go about giving your evidence.
Even if as a result of the enquiry, the plans are given Planning Inspectorate approval, Hackney Council Planning Committee will still need to approve the plans. For this reason, we are asking that people alsoobject to Hackney Council about the proposals NOW.
Thanks everyone for what you've helped achieve - let's keep up the pressure to save Hackney Marshes from unnecessary car parks!
Save Lea Marshes
SAVE OUR PARKS
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PARKS AND GREEN SPACESThe umbrella organisation for the UK's Friends of Parks Forums and the Friends Groups movement www.natfedparks.org.uk
Please forward to all your members...
Green Spaces Campaigning - Autumn UpdateSept 20th - World Parks Day 2014
Save and protect the UK's Parks!Sign and promote the 'Save Our Parks' petition: http://chn.ge/TXdqhj
More and more people call for action to address the underfunding crisisWorld Parks Day 2014, September 20th, is a prompt for us all to renew our determination to stand up for the UK's public parks and green spaces. Over the last few months there's has been a rising level of concern for the future of such spaces. Here are some of the significant things happening.
- CUTS CONTROVERSIES: Thousands of parks' officers and members of local Friends Groups will be expressing alarm, speaking out and lobbying their Local Authorities to protect next year's parks budgets. The underfunding crisis for our wonderful green spaces deepens as Councils face further, heavy, general budget cuts throughout the UK. Parks services are particularly under threat as, incredibly, they are not a statutory obligation for Councils.
- GREENER BRITAIN: UK Environmental organisations representing 7 million members call for action to halt the crisis facing our green spaces. The 10 organisations - including National Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Friends of The Earth - have produced a special 'Greener Britain' Report which warns that 'funding for public parks and green spaces is in crisis. Local authorities are facing reductions in revenue spending of around 40 per cent by May 2015 compared to 2010 budgets, predicted to drop by about 60 per cent by 2020. In the largest cities, the impact is likely to be even more severe, with the probability that there will be little or no money left for parks by 2020. Our parks, green corridors and waterways are critical to the attractiveness of our towns and cities, and to the well-being of the millions who live in them. Given that strategic funding is now being channelled through local growth funds, and the critical role natural infrastructure plays in people’s lives, it should qualify for funding just as local transport schemes do.' Greener Britain report:http://www.green-alliance.org.
- CAMPAIGNS TO PROTECT PUBLIC OPEN SPACES: There are many determined local campaigns around the UK to protect green space from inappropriate development. One of these has gone further than most. A recent legal case at the High Court in London saw a community campaign - Protect Dundonald Rec - challenge Merton Council's scheme to build on Dundonald Rec in defiance of the views of a Planning Inspector. The campaign and legal case has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to establish greater protection rights for all the UK's green spaces. Now the local campaigners, backed by the London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network, are calling on people to sign a petition calling on the Secretary of State to intervene. Please sign the petition: http://www.change.org/p/eric-
- LOVE PARKS CAMPAIGN: Love Parks Week is now being expanded to become an all year round programme, “Love Parks”. 'The Love Parks Week aim has always been to raise awareness of the importance of parks and green spaces, showcasing the benefits they bring and highlighting the need for continual investment and engagement. Sadly, as the nation comes to realise the benefits green spaces bring to our lives and communities, funding is being dramatically reduced. This year Love Parks Week will be ramping up its fight for parks and encouraging the creation of a year round movement with a launch of a new brand - ‘Love Parks’, after all a park is for life not just for summer.' Love Parks is managed by Keep Britain Tidy, working with the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces and other key organisations. More info:www.loveparksweek.org and www.facebook.com/LoveParksWeek
Promote the Save Our Parks petitionThe Government's cuts to Local Authorities for our local public services, combined with the lack of statutory protection for open spaces, are causing the most of the problems we are facing. So please sign and promote the UK 'Save Our Parks' petition to step up the pressure on the Government and all political parties to take seriously the future funding and protection of our vital green spaces.
1. Sign the petition: http://chn.ge/TXdqhj
2. Spread the news via Twitter: @LoveParks_Week #LoveParks
3. Spread the news via Facebook: www.facebook.com/
4. Refer to the Parks Petition webpage: www.natfedparks.org.uk/parks-
NFPGS Campaigns Officer
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Greener Britain Report: Extracts re Green SpacesThe Natural Environment White Paper, published in 2011, recognised that our collective ambition for lasting prosperity and well-being relies on a healthy, restored natural environment, the benefits of which are accessible to all. Over the past 50 years we have seen a significant decline in the extent and variety of habitats and species, leaving both our economy and our society poorer. We need to reverse these declines, by planning now for nature’s recovery.
A country rich in accessible natural places to exercise, socialise, study or relax makes us healthier and happier.Manifestos that commit to restore nature will help to address the decline in wildlife, improve the quality of people’s lives and support a more resilient economy in the future. In England, all parties should commit to a Nature and Well-being Act, setting out the long term plan for nature’s recovery and recognising its fundamental importance to our economy, sense of place and well-being.
Plan for nature’s recoveryCreating a more wildlife-rich future, in which the degraded natural environment can be recovered, will require fundamental changes in how we value, use and invest in nature. There should be a strong, long term commitment to increase biodiversity and look after precious habitats, to guide the prioritisation of effort and investment in the recovery of nature across England. This will require targets from the top, and ecological plans created from the bottom up, supported by councils and local communities.
These plans will become ‘blueprints’ for where nature currently exists and is needed in the future, and will be an important strategic tool for identifying where investment in nature can fulfil many wider objectives, such as flood resilience and access to green space. These plans will also play an important role in helping local people to develop
their area, by informing the design and location of development that will work with, and where possible enhance, the natural wealth of their local environment.
Make a 25 year national plan for nature’s recoveryThe government should create a 25 year plan for nature’s recovery, as recommended in the Natural Capital Committee’s second report, which pulls together local plans into a national framework. The government and its agencies would have to redirect existing payments for land management to enhance local ecological networks, and remove barriers to payments for looking after the natural environment, by changing, for instance, aspects of water industry regulation.
Map local ecological networksLocal authorities should have a duty to work together, building on the duty to co-operate introduced in the Localism Act, and map the ecological networks of the future. This would ensure that planning decisions and conditions contribute to the recovery of landscape scale natural systems. Network maps would sharpen decisions on nature restoration and the siting of development.
Set up a permanent arm’s length body to ensure the sustainable use and restoration of natural resourcesThis could be a new Office of Environmental Responsibility, or a strengthened Natural Capital Committee placed on a statutory footing. Either would be independent, and have a responsibility to guide government on its environmental ambitions, advising on environmental science and natural capital growth. This body would scrutinise all new
government and regulatory and policy proposals for their impact on natural systems and would help to create a framework for the reporting and valuing of natural capital
by private sector companies.
In England, the package outlined above is best delivered through a Nature and Well-being Act, setting out a long term plan for nature’s recovery.
Improve public access to natureBritain’s urban parks and green spaces are widely used and well loved. There is compelling evidence of the significant contribution that accessible, high quality green space makes to people’s health and well-being. These ‘green lungs’ are essential to encourage and enable a more active and cohesive society, particularly in providing
stimulating, safe places for children to play that are rich in wildlife.
Unfortunately, funding for public parks and green spaces is in crisis. Local authorities are facing reductions in revenue spending of around 40 per cent by May 2015 compared to 2010 budgets. It is predicted that these funding reductions and the rising demand for adult social care will result in discretionary spending on parks falling
by about 60 per cent by 2020. In the largest cities, where the greatest social care needs are found, the impact is likely to be even more severe, with the probability that
there will be little or no money left for parks by 2020.
Funding for maintaining public parks is about to fall sharply, and we need a rescue plan. This crisis could be turned into an opportunity if the government is proactive
and positive in enabling local government, civil society and businesses to rethink how society cares for these essential green spaces for the long term, in a way that
increases the benefits they provide to people.
Incentivise natural infrastructure through the local growth fundOur parks, green corridors and waterways are critical to the attractiveness of our towns and cities, and to the well-being of the millions who live in them. Given that strategic funding is now being channelled through local growth funds, and the critical role natural infrastructure plays in people’s lives, it should qualify for funding just as local transport schemes do.
Address the park funding crisis with a ‘future parks’ innovation processThere are currently no models for funding and managing public parks and green spaces at the scale required. These will need to be created during the next period of
government given the crisis in public funding for parks. To focus ideas and effort, a ‘future parks’ national innovation project would attract, test, and roll-out the best ideas from Britain and around the world. Local authorities will also need transition support from central government to ‘rewire’ how they look after the public realm in a managed and sustainable way.
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Green spaces under threat from planning system and funding crisisA Coalition of UK's leading environmental groups warn there may be "little or no money" left for the upkeep of Britain's green spaces and parks by 2020 due to funding cuts. Greener Britain - report at http://www.green-alliance.org.
City parks could soon be left untended unless an army of volunteers can be recruited to plug the gap left by budget cuts, a coalition of environmental and countryside groups has warned.
Britain's precious green spaces are under threat from flawed planning policy and a crisis in parks funding, a report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the National Trust and the RSPB with seven other major green organisations claims.
It states that “funding for public parks and green spaces is in crisis” as local authorities face spending cuts that will result in “discretionary spending on parks falling by about 60 per cent by 2020”.
In the largest cities, it is likely “there will be little or no money left for parks by 2020”, despite the fact that “our parks, green corridors and waterways are critical to the attractiveness of our towns and cities, and to the well-being of the millions who live in them”.
The environmental groups, which have a combined membership of more than seven million people, attack the Coalition government for its “hesitant” approach to environmental policies and urge action to “reverse the decline in British wildlife and countryside”.
They call on all political parties to “commit to a greener Britain” by adopting a series of policy goals spanning sectors such as energy, housing and transport.
Among the key demands, the groups call for further reforms to the Government’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework, in order to prioritise housing development on previously-used brownfield land rather than allowing its continued spread into the Green Belt.
“If the government intends to get the whole country behind tackling the housing crisis, it should recognise that more support will come if diverse and locally relevant approaches are taken,” it says.
Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, said the planning system in recent years had “marginalised community aspiration and environmental considerations”.
Monday’s report recommends that “local authorities should be required to work together across city regions or counties to plan for new housing in the least environmentally-damaging locations, prioritising the reuse of brownfield land where it is not of high biodiversity value”.
It also calls for communities to be given greater rights to defend their “neighbourhood plans”, a new kind of document introduced by the Coalition and supposed to be legally-binding on planning authorities.
Communities should be provided with a right to appeal if a local planning authority grants permission for a development which runs contrary to their neighbourhood plan, the report says.
The report calls on the next Government to enable “natural infrastructure” projects to qualify for money from local growth funds, and for a new national project to develop new funding models for parks and green spaces.
In the energy sector, the organisations call for an overhaul of energy efficiency policy to help households save money. The Coalition government has been widely criticised over the failure of the Green Deal scheme, which was designed to encourage homeowners to take out loans to fund green home improvements. But high interest rates of between 8 and 10 per cent have resulted in fewer than 4,000 homes signing up.
The green organisations say that “able-to-pay households should be offered long term zero per cent loans”, while “low income households should be offered full grants on energy efficiency schemes”.
They also call for a low carbon power target for 2030 and for more support for schemes that pay businesses to use less power at times of peak demand, to reduce the need for expensive new power stations.
Other recommendations from the group include further protection of UK seas through development of Marine Protected areas and the creation of a 25-year plan for “nature’s recovery”.
Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP and minister for energy and climate change, said the Coalition had “generated unprecedented investment into low carbon technologies” but acknowledged there was “still more to do”.
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader, said his party shared “a lot of common ground” with the Green Alliance on many of the issues.
“In government, we turned many of our green commitments into reality and have delivered policies that protect our environment, deliver cleaner energy and create greener jobs. We are proud of our record of action but now we want to go even further.
“We have a duty to look after our natural habitat for future generations and our manifesto will show that only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to deliver a greener and sustainable society.”
Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “Instead of the dither and denial we see from this Government, the Labour Party, under Ed Miliband’s leadership, recognises that climate change is a national security issue and is setting out a plan for action both at home and by leading a more ambitious programme internationally.
"Labour has already committed to 2030 decarbonisation target which the Tories oppose and the Liberal Democrats voted against. We will continue to drive an ambitious EU emissions reduction programme and set the pace of change for the rest of the world.”
Protect public parks and open spaces - stop local authorities building on them.Sign the petition to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles
(*Better educational sites are available - there is no excuse for taking away public open space.)
A local group 'Protect Dundonald Rec' is challenging and campaigning against the judgement - we are campaigning to change the law and to open local authority planning decisions to proper independent scrutiny. Our legal case was unsuccessful at the High Court and then the Court of Appeal, so now we desperately need your help to raise awareness, bring pressure on central government to give greater protection to irreplaceable green spaces, and possibly raise funds for any further legal challenge. Your park could be next!