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  • CarolineShah

Help me to save London's green and open spaces now

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Jenrick's London Plan ramps up population density without any requirement for quality public space

How can Robert Jenrick say he wants local development plans to conform with national policy, to be agreed in consultation with local people and to deliver “beautiful” places when he is about to sign off the London Plan which will do none of these things?

If the London Plan goes ahead, massive development will rise up all over much of London that it has designated as “growth” areas[1] and all over our neighbourhoods with no new quality open or green space for us to enjoy and every possibility that the existing open space we enjoy will also be built upon

Meanwhile, the emphasis in the London Plan on the provision of “public realm”, of which opens spaces are a subset, will leave us with no choice but to spend our time wandering around soulless alleys and shopping centres and station concourses between buildings that many of us might consider have little or no value as “open” space:

“The public realm includes all the publicly-accessible space between buildings, whether public or privately owned, from alleyways and streets to squares and open spaces, including the Thames and London’s waterways. Some internal or elevated spaces can also be considered as part of the public realm, such as markets, shopping malls, sky gardens, viewing platforms, museums or station concourses. Such forms of public realm are particularly relevant in areas of higher density.”

Is this the place you chose to make your home and that you want your children to live in in the future? And did you have a say in these plans?

Please help me take the London Plan to judicial review so that we can find out if the policies for open space across London offer us the protections we should be afforded by national policy

The Detail

The London Plan is taking away protections to open space that it is required to provide in national policy[2] with the result that:

  • There will be no protection from development for our existing open and green spaces and our rivers, including the River Thames, apart from protection for green spaces already protected - for the time being - by environmental laws

  • Open space which is privately-owned and/or to which we do not have access or have limited access will count as open space

  • Open space will not be required to provide a “visual amenity”[3], ie it will not need to add to the beauty of the environment

  • Open space will no longer have to have “public value”

  • Planners and developers only have to consider the possibility that green space[4] might provide a “visual amenity”, but only in the context of its presence in the “urban landscape

  • Local authorities will not have to base planning policies on “robust, up-to-date assessments of the needs for open space” and “opportunities for new provision” but simply carry out a needs assessment “to inform policy”

  • There will be no requirement to create areas of publicly accessible open space in areas of deficiency

  • Open and green spaces, including parks and rivers, become a subset of a new term “Public Realm” which is defined as “publicly accessible space between and around buildings, including streets, squares, forecourts, parks and open spaces.

Kingston example

Kingston is an area with a massive deficiency of public open space dating back to 2001 [5] [6]and is a place where no environmental assessment has taken place for decades. The London Plan’s weakening of national policy for open spaces facilitates the unsustainability of the massive development planned for Kingston as laid out in the London Plan policies SD1, H1 and H2 amongst others, as well as requirement for an additional 16,000 housing units associated with the provision of new transport infrastructure. It will also put nationally protected habitats and species in Richmond Park SAC and Wimbledon Common SAC at risk as vast numbers of people descend on these internationally protected sites as the only open spaces of significant public value near much of the Kingston’s proposed “opportunity area”.

[1] "Growth areas" in the London Plan are described in Policy SD1 Opportunity Areas and SD10 Strategic and Local Regeneration [2] National Planning Policy Framework 2012 [3] Dictionary definition: “the pleasantness or attractiveness of a place” [4] Green space is defined in the London Plan as: All vegetated open space of public value (whether publicly or privately owned), including parks, woodlands, nature reserves, gardens and sports fields, which offer opportunities for sport and recreation, wildlife conservation and other benefits such as storing flood water, and can provide an important visual amenity in the urban landscape. [5] ATKINS report 2006: Kingston Open Space Assessment

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