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NEGLECTED PARKS PUT LONDON'S FUTURE AT RISK

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London's future is under threat because of a failure to safeguard the capital's parks. A report published today by ...
London's future is under threat because of a failure to safeguard the capital's parks. A report published today by the London assembly calls for the mayor to make a firm commitment to ensure that green spaces are not sidelined by the rapid growth of building developments.

The report by the Green Spaces Investigative Committee reveals that many parks are neglected by local authorities. Dog fouling, vandalism, fly tipping, crime and pressure from development exacerbate the problem. Between 1989 and 1999, nearly 2,500 acres of green space in London were lost to development - equivalent to 1,500 football pitches.

During the committee's investigation, members were told by local residents that many green spaces are nothing but dog toilets, making them unusable by the rest of the local community and many parents are reluctant to allow children to play on their own in local parks and woods.

Threats to green spaces have been compounded because it is a low political priority and also because of a reduction in money spent on maintaining such spaces. Spending has consistently declined across the UK, with a decrease of£100m in annual expenditure from 1990 to 1999.

The maintenance of green spaces is also vital to the capital's economic, social and cultural success. The absence of green space, particularly in poorer areas, can deter investment and undermine regeneration initiatives. The Committee is urging the private sector to get involved in community developments and provide funding and resources that will contribute to their upkeep.

The report makes key recommendations to develop and maintain green space in London including:

* The mayor's Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) must include provision to ensure the creation of green space in future developments

* Develop a London Parks Forum, involving organisations concerned with the protection and management of London's green space which would secure funding, share best practice and gather data on green space

* The GLA should conduct a review in partnership with the Royal Parks Agency on the planning, design and use of the royal parks and palaces in central London

* Plant a tree for every child in the city

Roger Evans, chair of the green spaces investigative committee said: 'London's green spaces have been neglected for too long. If we allow this to continue, we are in danger of losing them. The GLA must establish a clear and imaginative vision for the city's green spaces and a strong planning framework to ensure they are protected for future generations.'

London Assembly Green Spaces Investigative Committee

Scrutiny of Green Spaces in London

Executive Summary

The green spaces of London are one of the city's most important and precious assets. The benefits they provide are many and varied, from sport and recreation through biodiversity and regeneration to tranquility and health. But we have found that these green spaces are in too many cases threatened with serious deterioration in their condition, crime, vandalism and loss to development. Despite many individual examples of good practice and innovation, we still lack a co-ordinated strategic vision for green space across London. This Report calls for a renewed political commitment to London's green space and a proactive strategy for its renewal.

We regard the restoration of London's green spaces to full health, the protection of the best parks, an end to the neglect of the worst, and high standards of management and maintenance as vital to the capital's economic, social and cultural success. Above all, this Report points to ways in which Londoners can once again enjoy the city's green spaces, just as they have done in the past.

The Report contains many conclusions and recommendations which can be found listed in full at Annex A. Our most important findings are:

Threats to London's Green Space

The threats to London's green spaces include environmental degradation, dilapidation, vandalism, fly tipping, crime, dog fouling and pressure for development. One thousand hectares of green space in London were lost to development from 1989 to 1999. These threats have been compounded by neglect, a low political priority for green space and decreasing resources.

The Spatial Development Strategy

The forthcoming Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) should contain a strategic vision for the protection and renewal of London's green space, with detailed guidance for the content of the Borough Unitary Development Plans (UDPs).

A London Parks Forum

The ownership and management of London's green space are immensely varied. There is currently little effective sharing of vision and best practice. A London Parks Forum should be established, supported by the GLA, which brings together all authorities and organisations involved in the protection and management of London's green space. The Forum would share best practice, gather data on green space, campaign and assist in securing funds.

The Information Deficit

The care of London's green space and its status in planning decisions are undermined by the lack of comprehensive information on its quantity and condition. This must be immediately addressed through a London Open Space Research Project, directed by the London Parks Forum and supported by interested parties, including the GLA.

Protection from development

London's green space is under intense pressure from development. There must be a presumption against development on any green space in areas where a green space deficiency has been identified.

Creating new green space

The SDS should contain guidance on a revised methodology for the assessment of green space deficiency in London. It should also encourage the use of section 106 agreements to ensure the creation of green space in future developments, and require Boroughs to consider the potential for green links and corridors across London.

The Royal Parks Agency

New legislation is necessary to ensure that the Royal Parks, and the city's other regional parks, take account of the Mayor's strategies, particularly the SDS, in their planning, policies and management.

The Green Belt

Too much of the Green Belt is underused, neglected and in poor condition. A priority for the SDS must be the revitalising of the Green Belt and a renewed vision of its purpose for London. Current protection for the Green Belt should remain unchanged but there must be added strategies to improve its accessibility, biodiversity and usage.

Playing fields

Many of London's privately-owned playing fields are suffering from speculative neglect in the hope that their poor condition will allow planning approval for development. This is a scandal which must be urgently addressed. No development should be allowed unless there is evidence of active marketing for alternative sport or recreation use.

Funding

Spending on green spaces has been declining across the United Kingdom, with a decrease of£100m (16 per cent) from 1990 to 1999. There is a particular problem in ensuring funding for the ongoing maintenance of London's green spaces. The private sector must be more involved in the provision of resources, whilst ensuring that advertising and business promotion do not intrude on the public's enjoyment of green space.

Environment and biodiversity

There is considerable opportunity to increase the environmental value and biodiversity of green space in London. There must be greater effort, with GLA and local authority assistance, to improve the biodiversity of land owned by the GLA family, major utilities and transport bodies, and to ensure environmental value is planned in to all future developments in London. We propose a scheme for the Mayor's forthcoming Tree Strategy for London which will ensure the planting of a new generation of trees in the city and capture the imagination of Londoners.

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