Threats to London's green spaces

Meeting: 
MQT on 2016-01-20
Session date: 
January 20, 2016
Reference: 
2016/0033
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
Organisation: 
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Do you share my concern that the combined pressures of Government spending cuts, housing and school place pressures are becoming a significant threat to London's green spaces?

Answer

Answer for Threats to London's green spaces

Answer for Threats to London's green spaces

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thanks so much, Jenny.  I do not think that you should be pessimistic about green spaces in London.  We have more green space than any other European city.  London is vast.  The thing that we should be doing is improving and upgrading our green space by investing in parks, in planting trees and in generally improving the amenities and quality of life of Londoners.  We have done a huge amount over the last few years to do that.

Where there is a loss of green space, it has been very small, and in the planning applications that I see it almost always involves flipping a site so that a school can build on one bit of the patch whilst restoring green space in another.  I am not against that. 

Jenny Jones AM:  You recently approved a development in Ealing on Metropolitan Open Land with a loss of 40 acres of green space.  You will find when Sian Berry, the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, is in this building, she will be very tough on this sort of thing.  However, for example, because of Government cuts, councils are really under pressure at the moment.  Bexley Council drew up a list of 27 open spaces that it was going to get rid of and is now trying to dispose - or is considering disposal - of four of those open spaces, including Old Farm Park.  Do you have no concern that ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Of course I do, but we have invested massively in parks and in green spaces in London.

Jenny Jones AM:  I just mentioned a loss of 40 acres, and in Hounslow ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I do not recognise ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  ‑‑ you have got rid of a playing field, which is also Metropolitan Open Land, and so you not only lose the green space ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Where, in Ealing?

Jenny Jones AM:  ‑‑ you lose a school’s facility for sports for children.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Sorry, where are you saying?  In Camden?

Jenny Jones AM:  No, in Hounslow.  It is a school academy that you approved.  Also, for building on Metropolitan Open Land, your London Plan says that you have to have special circumstances.  I do not see any very special circumstances.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Look, yes, of course it is theoretically possible to build schools in skyscrapers if that is what you really want.  If that is the Green Party approach, then be honest about it.  You can do that.  You can shove children up in high-rise blocks.  If that is, you think, a sensible way to build schools in this city, then I am interested in that Green Party policy.  I happen to think that ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  I am talking to you about loss of green space.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am talking to you about why ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  Can you please focus on the question?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am talking to you about why, in some cases, it is sensible to allow schools that are already on Metropolitan Open Land to change the configuration of their sites.  I do not know what you are talking about either in Ealing or in Hounslow because the cases I have seen involve expanding the footprint of the school buildings and putting the playing fields back in some other way.

Actually, if you fly over London, it has more green space and more trees.  It is the most extensively - rather than intensively - developed city in Europe.  It is about 659 square miles and ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  In that case, if you are so proud of our green space ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ if you are really saying that you want every new school ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  Mr Mayor, will you reject the principle of selling off open green space to plug council gaps in their budgets?  That is the issue we are talking about.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Of course.  We do not allow that, and time after time I have refused developments on Metropolitan Open Land or on Green Belt land in London and many times we have sat and just thrown them out.

Jenny Jones AM:  I do not have the details of how many that is.  I would be very interested to know because here it says that you have approved 29 planning applications on protected land like Metropolitan Open Land, Green Belt and local spaces.  You are approving quite a lot, are you not?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am because in many cases you need that land for schools.

Jenny Jones AM:  You do understand there is no new green space being created that you can just ‑‑

Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman):  The Garden Bridge.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  That is a very good point, a brilliant point ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  When Sian Berry, the Green Party mayoral candidate, is in this building, she will be looking for this ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ a characteristically brilliant point by my friend Tony Arbour.  Such is the genius of this mayoralty that we have prestidigitated a new green space in the middle of the city out of nowhere.  Ex nihilo, we are creating a Garden Bridge.

Jenny Jones AM:  I am so glad that you are leaving; I am so glad that I am leaving.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Why are you ‑‑

Jenny Jones AM:  You do talk complete nonsense.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  No.  You talk complete rubbish and you have talked rubbish ‑‑

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  OK.  The Green Party is out of time.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You talk even more rubbish than we have recycled.