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Survey of London's 'Protected' Land

Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:04

New survey reveals the importance of London’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land for our most precious wildlife and woodland

Campaigners at CPRE London [1] today (Monday) present the findings of a detailed survey of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in Greater London.   The survey shows how important this land is for nature conservation and especially the protection of ancient woodland.

Prepared by CPRE London using analysis undertaken by Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC (GiGL) [2], the report [3] describes the extent, location and character of much of London’s most precious green and open space, borough by borough.     It also outlines the growing pressures facing London’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) which is meant to have the highest level of protection from development in planning policy.

CPRE London’s Director, Neil Sinden, said ‘London’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land should be protected from built development and this report show just how important it is that this continues. As pressure for development grows [4], we need to work harder to safeguard this precious land for the sake of the wildlife and habitats it supports, as well as the huge benefits its provides for people in London – fresh air, open skies, green landscapes, space for sport and recreation, and the opportunity to connect with the natural world.’

KEY FINDINGS. Tables and maps in the report provide details of GiGL’s analysis which are summarised below and in the following maps:

On the character of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in Greater London:

  • Almost half (49%) of the Green Belt and MOL is of local, national or international importance for nature conservation.
  • Over 97% of ancient woodland is in Green Belt or MOL.
  • Outdoor sports facilities account for just over a quarter of MOL and 13% of Green Belt land.

On the extent of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in Greater London:

  • Just over 22%, or 35,109 hectares, of land is designated as Green Belt.
  • Almost 10%, or 15,681 hectares, is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

On the location of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in Greater London:

  • Seven boroughs have less than 10% of their land designated as Green Belt or MOL: Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets.
  • Three boroughs have more than 50% of their land designated as Green Belt or MOL: Bromley, Havering and Richmond.
  • More than 90% of the Green Belt within London is contained in just 10 of the 20 Outer London boroughs.
  • More than half of the Green Belt within London is found in just three of Outer London boroughs - Bromley, Havering and Hillingdon.
  • Just over a quarter (27%) of MOL is contained within the 12 Inner London boroughs.
  • Unlike other Outer London boroughs, Richmond has more MOL than Green Belt land which together cover more than half of the borough.
  • Havering is the only London borough that has no designated MOL.

Neil Sinden continued: ‘We hear increasing criticism of the value and condition of the Green Belt from the development lobby, and MOL is under similar pressure. This research shows just how valuable this land is and provides a basis for taking action to ensure that all Green Belt and MOL plays a useful role in improving the environment and quality of life for Londoners, as well as protecting our wildlife which is increasingly under threat’

‘Some conservation sites are afforded a protection by law but many have a ‘local’ designation which is non-statutory and less robust. If they are in Green Belt or MOL, however, they can be better protected. We found that nearly all (95%) of London’s statutory nature conservation sites and well over half (59%) of locally designated ones are in Green Belt or MOL [5]. There’s also a growing understanding of the importance of the connections between wildlife sites, so the value of the wider Green Belt and MOL beyond the designated nature conservation sites is also underlined by our findings.’

In conclusion, Neil Sinden said: ‘This report presents detailed and up-to-date information for some of the most precious green and open land within London. It should be of great use to all those who want to protect such land from development threats and safeguard and enhance the many benefits it provides for people who live in and visit London, as well as the precious wildlife and woodland it sustains.’



1.         CPRE London is a membership-based charity with 2,500 members around London, which campaigns to save Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land and other green spaces within Greater London, and to make our capital city a better place to live for everyone. We are a branch of the national environmental charity, the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

2.         Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC (GiGL) is the capital’s local environmental records centre. GiGL mobilises, curates and shares access to data that underpin our knowledge of London’s natural environment, in order to enable its stakeholders to make informed decisions in policy and practice. It aims to raise awareness of the benefits the natural environment provides to the capital and to ensure the protection and enhancement of London’s natural environment are at the heart of the services it provides.

3.         Link to report here:

4.         Development pressures affecting the Green Belt across England are outlined in CPRE’s latest national State of the Green Belt report:

5.         Information on London’s Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) is outlined here: and a map of SINCs can be found here: Statutory nature conservation sites include Local Nature Reserves (LNR), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), or National Nature Reserves (NNRs) – under national legislation – and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar Sites under European legislation. There are two statutory NNRs in London – Richmond Park and Ruislip Woods, which is the largest ancient woodland site in Greater London, and 37 SSSIs.  The Lea Valley and Kempton Park Reservoirs are SPAs and Ramsar Sites, and Epping Forest, Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park are SACs. There are 144 Local Nature Reserves in London details of which can be found here:

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