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London ‘Green Defenders’ tell their stories at report launch

By deliar
15th March 2024

Speakers at the launch of CPRE London’s new report Green Defenders have shown how strong local campaigns can save cherished green spaces across the capital.

What is the key to defending local green spaces? Speakers told the audience that building local support and being well-organised is key. Communications are vital – everything from building a big social media following to meetings with planners and decision makers, delivering leaflets and holding public meetings. Creating a good rapport with councillors and planners, and learning from best practice were also key to success.

They also pointed to the value of collaboration, sparking the creation of a new group, London Green Defenders, to work together and share experience of combatting inappropriate development in different areas.

The report, Green Defenders March 2024 highlights threats to more than 30 London sites, including public parks, sports pitches, nature reserves and protected Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land. Local residents frequently face an unequal battle as they take on political leaders and powerful commercial interests.

From Enfield, to Hounslow, to Redbridge, local activists have developed support groups to take on councils and developers planning to turn public space into private sports fields, warehousing or schools.

While much-loved parks – such as Peckham Green in Southwark – have disappeared, residents have succeeded in facing down threats to allotments in Hounslow and common land in Tooting, among others.

CPRE London’s campaigns manager Alice Roberts said:

‘We are facing unprecedented pressure on green spaces, parks and natural spaces, despite their importance for the capital’s health. This comes from a range of interests. A particular problem is the close relationship between sports clubs and borough councils. Sometimes they collaborate to take over protected land and even public parks.

‘We believe selling off green spaces used for public amenity, or restricting their use for professional sports or commercial use, is highly questionable, short sighted and potentially illegal.

‘It seems extraordinary and very wrong to us that local people have to defend their local park in this way. Fortunately, as our speakers told us today, calling out these threats can be successful, and we are also seeing local wins, preserving sites for generations to come.’

CPRE London is calling on the Mayor and town halls to do more than give lip service to the importance of parks and green spaces. They are asking councils to block developments that would reduce vital green spaces; prioritise brownfield sites for development; and strengthen planning protections.

CPRE London works to save and promote green spaces in Greater London, and to make our capital city a better, greener and healthier place for everyone to live in, work in, and enjoy. For more see Green space for all – CPRE London