Opinion: Making London a true National Park City

Cllr Sian Berry is proud of the work done by Kentish Town residents to improve the area. Photo: Isab

Cllr Sian Berry is proud of the work done by Kentish Town residents to improve the area. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

On Friday I enjoyed a walk through Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park in central London with campaigner Daniel Raven-Ellison

We were discussing, as part of my work to be mayor of London, how we can better link up London's green space and ecology to make it a true National Park City.

His campaign has won pledges from the current mayor and started to build a network of local groups and campaigns focused on bridging the physical gaps between our green spaces, small and large, and the policy gaps that can lead to the loss of valued spaces and lost opportunities to improve them.

There are too many ways in which disconnected planning and transport policies can risk undermining green infrastructure and its worth for active travel, education, health, fitness and reduced inequality, as well as for ecology and wellbeing. Local action and detailed community planning can fill these gaps, and I will be putting forward new policies and funding to help communities around London do more to improve their local areas both for people and nature.

I was delighted to be able to tell Daniel on our walk all about the excellent work going on in our local area, which makes exactly these connections between wider goals and nature, and has led to promising new plans coming forward for the underused Murphy's Yard north of Kentish Town Station.

Thanks to work over many years by local groups and the Kentish Town and Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forums, the second round of plans from landowners Murphy's include a clear green link right through from Kentish Town to Hampstead Heath. Murphy's are calling it the Heath Line. It would be a green walking route, including trees, natural areas and planting, allowing people for the first time to follow on foot the 'desire line' created by the iconic view of Parliament Hill that travellers enjoy as they emerge from Kentish Town station.

I first remember being presented with sketches for an ecological corridor at an early meeting of the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum in 2013, even before I was elected as a councillor. I have written about it before in the Ham&High, encouraging residents to respond to Camden Council's own planning guidance draft for the area and back this new green link through the area. Now this looks closer than ever to becoming a reality, with a clear vision for the site also baked into the newly ratified Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan, approved in a referendum this month.

Continued vigilance and pressure will still be needed to defend these ideas and build positive community housing benefits into the plans as they progress. Economic imperatives can erode good intentions during any planning and development process, but we can chalk up a number of steps forward and real progress already.

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Support for bottom-up leadership is a key theme of my campaign to be mayor, and I'm proud to be able to talk about a positive and visionary local example in the coming weeks on the doorstep.