The Big Smoke becomes the first National Park City

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Last week was London’s National Park City Festival and to kick off the weeklong celebration, London became the first city in the world to achieve National Park City status.

The National Park City movement was formed earlier in the year with the overarching goal of encouraging cities to make positive changes to their environments. Two main aims were put forward: to encourage those living and working in the capital to make better use of the outdoors and to make the city greener, healthier, wilder, fairer and more beautiful.

For many of us this announcement comes as a surprise. However, it is an indicator that through this initiative, the city formerly nicknamed ‘The Big Smoke’ is taking a step in the right direction and setting an example for other cities internationally to follow suit.

The initiative goes together with The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s goal of making London 50% green by 2050 and sits alongside his aims of tackling climate change. The property sector has a role to play in reaching this aim too. It is estimated that London’s public green space occupies 17.99% of the city, much more than other cities such as Paris or the famous ‘concrete jungle’, New York, however, new spaces need to be designed with efficiency and greenery in mind to increase this figure further. London National Park City recently implemented its idea of an edible garden in Willesden Green: several English fruit trees now line the High Street, and with benches installed nearby the public can sit and enjoy the fruit they pick straight away. This simple but clever design responds to two of the initiative’s ambitions – encouraging people outside as well as making the landscape greener.

While it’s important to create new schemes with green principles at the forefront, more should be done to make use of the existing green space around London. On Saturday Lewisham Council re-opened a disused 237-acre golf course, now named Beckenham Place Park, the space has been redesigned to offer community gardens, a Palladian mansion for concerts and a lake for visitors to paddle in. It is schemes like this that will significantly help London reach London National Park City’s and the Mayor’s common goal.

And, even though London has a long way to go before the 50% figure is met, a continued step in the right direction will see our old reputation, as one of the most polluted cities, go up in smoke.