London's 'Pocket Parks'

MQT on 2016-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2016
Question By: 
Peter Whittle
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What steps are you taking to protect London's 'pocket parks' such as Old Farm Park in Sidcup from being offloaded by local authorities to developers, to replace them with blocks of flats?


Answer for London's 'Pocket Parks'

Answer for London's 'Pocket Parks'

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for this question, Assembly Member Whittle.  Can I take this opportunity to publicly congratulate you on being appointed Deputy Leader of the UK Independence Party? I really am pleased for you. 


Although I am disappointed that Bexley Council decided to dispose of part of a locally valued area of green space, I am afraid I am unable to directly intervene to prevent boroughs from selling land they own.  The existing London Plan Policy 7.18, protecting open space and addressing deficiencies, states that the loss of protecting open spaces must be resisted unless equivalent or better quality provision is made within the local catchment area.  I will expect Bexley to take account of this in dealing with any subsequent planning application for this land.  However, my ability to get involved in such planning application is constrained by the criteria set out in the Mayor of London Order 2008.  This sets the rules on which applications are referred to me.


The two criteria that are of relevance here are a development involving the loss of 2 hectares of playing fields or a development comprising or including more than 150 residential units.  Unless one of these triggers is met, I am unable to direct on the application.  I recognise that boroughs have to make difficult trade-offs to ensure we deliver the housing where there is need against the protection of every existing parcel of local amenity space.  However, these areas of green space are very important to our communities and in preparing my new London Plan, I am already considering options on how new developments can deliver better green spaces.


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you very much for that, Mr Mayor and thank you, too, for your kind wishes.


What you are saying really is again, the jurisdiction is not there.  In principle, this is very similar to the question that Assembly Member Kurten asked earlier, in which case, I would like to say that if that is the case, you did, in fact, visit, I understand, during the Mayoral campaign, Old Farm Park in Sidcup.  You said that, in fact, this was a concerted assault on precious green land and that it was happening all over.  By doing that and going and seeing the people, do you not think it did give the impression that you could do something?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I did go and visit Old Farm Park to join the residents in their opposition to the Council’s plans to dispose of that site and I am afraid we were unsuccessful.  The Council did dispose of that site.  I am committed to safeguard the capital’s strategically important parks and green spaces where I can.  My manifesto and A City for all Londoners have made it clear that I want to spread the protection of Green Belt and other designated open spaces.  As I said, in my new London Plan, I want to take on board those issues.


Peter Whittle AM:  Yes.  Could I just ask finally that you use every last bit of your influence to make sure that London is not just a balance sheet and that these things are incredibly important to the character and the culture of the place?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I agree with you completely but can I just say I am not speaking about this particular application?  I understand why local authorities have dilemmas but they need to understand the point you have just made.  These are precious.


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you very much.