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London becomes the world’s first National Park City

Greenwich Park"Greenwich Park" by Mark Ramsey is licensed under CC by 2.0

Think of a national park and you might conjure up images of rolling countryside, trees and hills and green space as far as the eye can see. Yet the first National Park City has been formally named, and it’s London. England’s capital has been working at becoming greener and shifting the stereotypical image of smoggy grey. The first National Park City, London, is part of an initiative from the National Park City Foundation (NPCF) that aims to shift focus in sprawling metropolitan areas and get everyone thinking more about their parks and green spaces, not just from an aesthetic perspective, but also from a view of what outdoor spaces can do for physical and mental well-being of all who use them.

What does it mean to be a National Park City?

In its simplest form, the concept of a National Park City is to develop outdoor parks in inner cities for the good of everyone. It is a commitment from London that it will develop its city parks to make them safe and enjoyable for all.

On the back of the London launch, the NPCF along with the World Urban Parks and Salzburg Global Seminar has plans to announce 25 National Park Cities by the end of 2025 and the target list for the next cities is already being drawn up. This includes more cities in the UK and around the world.

The value of parks

Parks and public spaces are all around us and play a vital part of everyday urban life and bringing the community together. It is in these places that people meet with friends, stop for lunch, enjoy time with their family or relax on their own; it is also a place for learning, you are able to see the diversity of cultures and different identities that make up your local area.

It is estimated that each year over half the UK population – around 33 million people – make more than 2.5 billion visits to urban green spaces alone. This is why it is extremely important these public spaces are welcoming and offer a place to rest for all ages. Seats and benches give people a stopping point, whether it be for lunch, for a rest, a place to wait and meet others or simply a place to sit and take in the scenery.

Why London?

With 9 million residents, equating to a pretty crowded 14,000 per square mile, one might not associate London with parks and open space, but in fact, almost 17% of the city is dedicated to green space open to the public. Contrast that with Paris, where just 9% of the area is given over to park space. There is also an impressive number of trees in London – at 8 million, they almost equal the number of people!

Some of the outdoor parks will be managed, others left wild, with a view to offering the best of all worlds and something for everyone.

Beyond the physical space, London has committed to working on emissions, with a plan to see zero emissions from taxis and minicabs operating in the city by 2033, and the same non-polluting goal applying to all newly registered vehicles by 2040.

And it’s not just people that are set to benefit. There are 15,000 different wildlife species in London, including the biggest population of stag beetles anywhere in the country. The plants and trees will work to improve air quality, and the city and its residents will work together to tackle waste and recycling.

London is celebrating the recognition of its efforts with the Mayor of London’s National Park City Festival, running for the final week of July. It’s a party, and it’s intended to bring the whole concept to life with public awareness campaigns and a festival atmosphere.


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