Mayor vows to protect ‘the lungs of the capital’
New London Plan strengthens safeguards for Green Belt
Sadiq unveils further moves to make more than 50 per cent of London green by 2050
Focus on green infrastructure as integral part of new developments
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has strengthened the commitment to protect London’s Green Belt and other important open spaces for future generations and set out plans to help make more than half of London green by 2050 – both of which were key manifesto commitments.
His draft London Plan – the overarching strategic planning framework for the city, which is being launched on Wednesday – strengthens safeguards which prevent harmful development on vital green land both within and surrounding the capital.
This means a planning application which involves building on the Green Belt will be refused by the Mayor if it does not meet strict rules on what is appropriate, such as replacing existing buildings with new ones of a similar scale or the provision of new agricultural buildings.
London’s Green Belt makes up almost a quarter of the capital’s land area and benefits London’s air quality, as well as helping reduce the risk and impact of flooding and providing habitats for London’s wildlife. The Mayor will work with London’s boroughs and other partners to ensure that public access to the Green Belt is maintained and that its overall quality is enhanced.
Earlier this year Sadiq announced his ambition for London to become the UK’s first National Park City, a key part of which will be increasing the capital’s green cover to more than 50 per cent by 2050.
The draft London Plan also includes guidelines for increasing green infrastructure (such as street trees, green roofs, green walls and rain gardens) and a framework to help boroughs and developers determine how much should be required in new developments.
The guidelines make it clear that green infrastructure must form an integral part of new developments, rather than an ‘add-on’, and will be judged against a number of criteria, including promoting wellbeing, enhancing biodiversity and improving air and water quality.
Sadiq will also instruct his City Hall team to review and update existing planning guidelines on the “All London Green Grid” – London’s strategic green infrastructure framework – to help boroughs to prepare their own local green infrastructure strategies.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “When I became Mayor I made it clear that delivering more of the genuinely affordable housing that Londoners so urgently need would be one of my top priorities.
“London needs 66,000 new homes every year to meet its increasing need and put right years of underinvestment. But development must not be done at any cost: the Green Belt is the lungs of the capital and must be protected.
“I firmly believe we can build the homes Londoners need without sacrificing the Green Belt. This will mean more development on brownfield land, town centres becoming denser, incorporating more green infrastructure in our streets and developments and being more creative with how we develop the hundreds of small sites across the capital.
“Since I took office I have refused a number of developments which would have caused harm to the Green Belt. With my new London Plan I’m sending a clear message to developers that building on or near the Green Belt must respect and protect this vital natural resource.”
The recently published Natural Capital Account for London’s Public Green Spaces highlights the significant economic benefit of protecting and investing in London’s green infrastructure. The account shows London’s green spaces provide services valued at £5 billion per year, including £950 million per year in avoided health costs.
The draft London Plan will also strengthen protections for Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), which is a network of strategic, designated green spaces within the capital and make up a significant part of London’s existing green infrastructure.
MOL has a positive impact on Londoners’ lives by offering a range of sporting and leisure uses, important heritage value, biodiversity, and health benefits through providing the green space for walking, running and other physical activity – as well as providing respite from poor air quality and urban noise.
The Plan also encourages boroughs to protect existing allotments and provide space for community gardening, including growing food, in new developments.
This week is National Tree Week (25 November to 3 December) and as part of his tree-planting programme, the Mayor has awarded £400,000 in tree grants to 30 local projects to help create more community orchards, revitalise parks, deliver trees in housing estates and create new urban woodlands. Sadiq is also partnering with TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) to offer community groups, schools and charities up to 10,000 free trees this winter.
As part of his wider work on supporting green spaces, the latest round of the Mayor’s £2 million Green Capital grants will soon be launched. The grants – which will be up to £500,000 each – aim to help restore rivers, improve flood prevention schemes and improve public access to green spaces across the capital.
Notes to editors
- The draft London Plan will be published for consultation on 1 December. The consultation will run until 2 March 2018.
- The Green Belt accounts for 22 per cent of London’s total land area.
- The protection of the Green Belt does not completely prohibit building on the land outright, but acts as a safeguard against urban sprawl and the significant loss of trees and natural habitats.
- Under the guidelines contained in the draft London Plan, major developments should contribute to the greening of London by including urban greening as a fundamental element of site and building design, and by incorporating measures such as high-quality landscaping (including trees), green roofs, green walls and sustainable natural drainage.
- The previous London Plan was adopted in 2016 and has since been updated with supplementary planning guidance (SPG) documents on several specific areas – most recently, the Mayor’s Affordable Housing and Viability SPG, which outlined a faster, surer route through the planning process for developer offering at least 35 per cent affordable housing without public subsidy.
- Green infrastructure also provides vital environmental functions, such as absorbing CO2 and air pollution, reducing the risk of flooding and providing habitats for London’s diverse wildlife.
- Information on the new Green Capital grants can be found here: www.london.gov.uk/greenercity.
- Information on applying for free tree packs for community groups can be found here: www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/parks-green-spaces-and-biodiversity/trees-and-woodlands.