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Into the 21st century

In 2000 the Greater London Authority was established readopting a new strategic planning role and absorbing the work of the London Ecology Unit.
 
In a spirit of legislative enthusiasm, the Authority developed a Biodiversity Strategy for London (2002) and championed measures to tackle new environmental concerns, including noise pollution, and most importantly, climate change.
 
Government had already tried to kickstart an 'urban renaissance' through the Urban Task Force, and had identified opportunities to develop the city eastwards along the Thames Gateway.
 
Whilst regeneration proposals appeared to have little environmental sensitivities, by 2010 the ecological characteristics of the broader Thames estuary became embedded within a Thames Gateway Parklands vision.
 
More profoundly, after years of lobbying by a parks sector that had been subject to increasing disinvestment since the 1960s, the Government established the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce in 2002, which stimulated almost a decade of activity promoting the value of parks and greenspaces.
 
Under CABE Space, new planning guidance, research, quality standards, advocacy, and training helped to raise awareness of the benefits of high quality green infrastructure.
 
This is now being taken forward at a strategic level in London through the All London Green Grid, and is likely to ensure a multi-functional approach to create and manage greenspaces that can conserve wildlife, provide amenity, and help meet the challenges of climate change.
 
The first decade of the new century saw some continued successes for London's nature. Barn Elms, the London Wetlands Centre, was established in 2000 on the site of old reservoirs, and soon after Rainham Marshes - saved from development threats after over a decade of campaigning by many - became established as a nature reserve.
 
Peregrine falcon started breeding again on a few tall buildings within the city after many decades of absence, and following reintroduction in the Chilterns in the mid-1990s, red kite started to be seen again over west London’s skies by 2005.
 
The long-running efforts to clean our rivers yielded success with the recovery of fish populations (over 128 species in the Thames by 2008) and those of a variety of waterfowl, including heron, and cormorant.
 
Populations of water vole, hanging on in a few tributaries of the Thames (e.g. Colne and Ingrebourne), have been identified and are subject of longer-term reintroduction schemes.
 
More controversially a number of non-native species have made their mark, for example zebra mussel, Chinese mitten-crab, and floating pennywort in our rivers, and alongside them dense tracts of Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed.
 
Ring-necked parakeet have noisily occupied the skies in many parts of London, muntjac deer have moved into the woodlands and gardens of the suburbs, and more recently a leaf-miner moth has infected many of the capital’s horse chestnut trees.
 
Efforts are now under way to limit the impacts of those species from outside Britain that are likely to cause problems; an admittedly difficult issue given London's role as an international gateway.
 
London today holds a population of 7.8 million, which is set to grow further. It is a city which still supports a high proportion of greenspace; over 50% of the total area, of which some 20% is identified to be of wildlife interest.
 
Through the concerted action of relatively few people, over 200 nature reserves have been established, sites have been saved from development, policies put in place to protect wildlife from development or pollution, and innovative interventions have showed the art of the possible, whether green 'living' roofs, urban river restoration, or designing biodiversity into new buildings.
 
London has been at the forefront of much nature conservation practice in Britain, in a city where nature still thrives but still faces immense pressures from the demands of society.
 
The challenge for all of us who care about London's nature is to remain vigilant, and ensure that all our decisions respect the needs of all those other inhabitants of the city; her fauna, flora and fungi.