Can London be a National Park? By Keeping it Wild Trainee Sebastian

Former quarry, now lake at Denham Lock Woods in Uxbridge credit Sebastian Hollingshead

Did you know that London is almost 50% green and blue space? Can the city rebrand its urban environment as a National Park to create a health and ecosystem benefits?

UK National Parks 

The National Parks and Access to Countryside Act which passed in 1949 led to the creation of 15 National Parks in the UK and by 2016, 144 local National Parks in London were created according to National England. 37 reserves are cared for and maintained by the London Wildlife Trust where all the aims are to conserve the heritage of these areas and promote public enjoyment and understanding of them. 

A green city 

London is around 50% green and blue space with 8.5 million trees and 14,000 species of wildlife (as of May 2019). It has 3,000 parks, 37 of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and two National Nature Reserves. This is evident by the pie chart below from Charlie Peel from Urban Good, that 65.85% of London has open space where 43% is open to the public and around 20% of it happens to be either; natural urban greenspaces, outer urban fringe/green belt or nature reserves. This percentage shows that these areas cannot be altered or changed to start urbanising and therefore, cities like London could see itself become a National Park in the future. 

Chalk Grassland in Biggin Hill, Bromely

Chalk Grassland in Biggin Hill, Bromely credit Sebastian Hollingshead

Can you believe that this nature reserve is located in London? This site is a prime example of what this city could become and potentially be rebranded into. If we protect sites like this, it is filled with livestock grazing the land such as goats and sheep but also wildlife such as slow worms, rabbits and badgers. If the nature reserves are protected but also expanded, the plan to make London a National Park is underway. 

Former quarry, now lake at Denham Lock Woods in Uxbridge

Former quarry, now lake at Denham Lock Woods in Uxbridge credit Sebastian Hollingshead

This site is in the heart of and a part of the Colne Valley Regional Park and it is an example of change, from urbanisation/industrialisation to an open space that encourages wildlife. This includes the large roe deer to the small bank voles, pygmy shrew and wood mouse where an ecosystem can be formed and the site to have biodiversity, therefore can lead to the creation of a National Park. 

An insight into National Parks in London  

Looking at what makes a National Park, we need to point out what characteristics are needed to obtain the title.  On a smaller scale, nature reserves are publicly or privately owned and you can find them all over London. For example, Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve that has a high quality of wildlife and geology that is of national importance. This park is legally conserved and protected by the government due to its characteristics. This park has an abundance of fallow deer that roams the site and so at least parts of London could be considered as a National Park that is home to wild species. 

However, if we are going to talk about the grand scale of what a National Park should look like we should turn our heads to sites such as Exmoor National Park and the South Downs. These diverse habitats provide homes for a vast array of species, including majestic red deer, elusive otters and some of the UK’s rarest butterflies and bats. This then reflects on the idea that if we follow what is considered a National Park, we can replicate it and adapt it within London itself. 

The National Park City idea 

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a former geography teacher, fronted the campaign to make London the first-ever National Park City in the world- which was successful in 2019. This idea is to empower individuals and groups to make their city a healthier place, increase community cohesion, help young people to reconnect to their area and engage businesses to become more sustainable. 

With this in this mind, London could become a National Park if the National Park City works with and creates a partnership with local government, businesses and individuals. London will be rebranded as an ecological hub, using modern technology to create such as green infrastructure or green roofs. Also, buffer zones and wildlife corridors could be created which will make ecosystems more resilient, concrete removal would promote water stores to form, reducing risks of floods and promoting eco-housing that would provide affordable housing and address inequality.  

This will then rebrand London as a National Park, not just an urban metropolis.