Green groups praise Sadiq Khan’s pledge to make London world’s first National Park City

The Renewable Energy Association (REA), the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) and the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) are among a host of organisations that have welcomed a new strategy from London Mayor Sadiq Khan which seeks to make the capital "greener, cleaner and ready for the future".

A draft version of the London Environment Strategy, released today (11 August), details Khan’s vision of making London a greener, cleaner and healthier place by tackling the air quality crisis once and for all and delivering more efficient buildings, cleaner transport and better recycling methods.

Specifically, Khan will use planning regulations to protect the Green Belt and promote the implementation of green roofs, green walls, rain gardens and habitats for wildlife in and around new project developments. The Mayor will also fund thousands more trees and improvements to community green spaces, and help London’s boroughs invest in local parks.

As a first step, Khan has set up a new £9m ‘Greener City Fund’ for London to create and improve green spaces. Local groups can apply for the first £1m of grants to plant neighbourhood trees and maintain green community areas.

Green infrastructure

Launching the draft Strategy for consultation at Woodberry Wetlands in Hackney, Khan said: “London is home to outstanding green spaces that I want to protect, invest in and improve as we aim to become the world’s first National Park City.

“We can also increase the amount of greenery in the city by installing many more green roofs and making our streets greener.  From our famous Royal Parks, to our much-loved community gardens and urban nature reserves like Woodberry Wetlands, this ‘green infrastructure’ is a vital asset that improves air quality, boosts quality of life, conserves wildlife and attracts thousands of visitors.

“I’ve set out my plans to improve London’s environment by fighting pollution, tackling waste and promoting cleaner energy so we can make London a healthier city that adapts to the impacts of climate change. I want to hear your views and ideas about how we can make London the greenest city in the world.”

In addition to the National Park City commitment, the Mayor’s draft London Environment Strategy sets out the need for even tougher pollution targets proposed by the World Health Organisation to protect public health and starts to address the associated problem of indoor air quality.

It also includes London’s first ‘solar action plan’, which sets out the Mayor’s actions to more than double London’s solar energy generation capacity by 2030. Meanwhile, a new ‘fuel poverty action plan’ will help to increase support for Londoners struggling to heat and power their homes affordably, while new policies to cut waste and encourage better use of resources will be developed under an overarching pledge to recycle 65% of London’s waste by 2030.

London Environment Strategy: The reaction

The ambitious and comprehensive nature of the draft Strategy has been welcomed by a swathe of green groups.

REA’s head of policy and external affairs James Court said: “With this Strategy, the GLA [Greater London Authority] is demonstrating that it intends to make London a global green city. Issues such as zero waste to landfill, extending district heating networks and modern planning conditions for Zero Carbon Homes are all excellent priorities and are areas where the UK’s growing green industry can assist.”

The Solar Trade Association’s (STA) head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “Solar is vital to any green and modern capital city. London is now starting the focussed work it urgently needs to do to catch up on solar, not only with the rest of the UK but with other world cities. However, the Mayor is quite right that national Government needs to provide a better enabling policy framework to support his ambitions – particularly on the tax treatment of rooftop solar.” 

The EIC’s executive director Matthew Farrow said: “The determination to address the full range of environmental issues – for example, non-transport as well as transport emissions on air quality and the green spaces and natural capital agenda – is encouraging, as is the ambition to go beyond legal requirements for example on recycling rates and particulate levels.”

UK-GBC’s campaign and policy director John Alker said: “These aspirations highlight the growing trend: it is our cities that are leading the way in the absence of policy ambition and clarity from central Government. UK-GBC strongly welcomes this type of leadership and will be contributing the voice of progressive built environment businesses to this consultation. We look forward to engaging with the Mayor’s office on the detail of these policies and maintaining the ambitions outlined.”

And London-based engineering firm Aecom’s director of sustainable development Ben Smith said: “The campaign to make London a National Park City has inspired us at AECOM to think about an improved built environment in London, incorporating more and better green infrastructure. We are big supporters of the campaigns aims. Our work cuts across a number of themes outlined in the strategy. We look forward to helping deliver on this vision for London.”

Luke Nicholls

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