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Green Defenders – protecting London’s environment

London’s green spaces are under ever more pressure, but across the capital, local campaigners are pushing back.

In March 2024, we launched our report, Green Defenders, which highlighted the scale of threat currently affecting us. But we also heard speakers from pressure groups across the city reveal steps they have taken to address powerful vested interests – and win.

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Green Defenders Report

Our 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.

What is the key to defending local green spaces?

Building local support and being well-organised is key. Good communication underpins 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 routes to success.

Speakers pointed to the value of collaboration, sparking the creation of a new group, London Green Defenders. This network will work together and share experience of combatting inappropriate development in different areas. There will be more news on this, soon.

What CPRE London says

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, calling out these threats can be successful, and we are also seeing local wins, preserving sites for generations to come.

What next?

We are calling on the Mayor and town halls to do more than just give lip service to the importance of parks and green spaces. Councils should block developments that would reduce vital green spaces; prioritise brownfield sites for development; and strengthen planning protections.

We will also continue to find ways to pool resources and share best practice, such as via the Green Defenders group. On these pages we will add to the presentations with practical resources to help groups wanting to defend green spaces on their patch.

We will also take inspiration from the stories of local campaigners, such as those shared at the report launch.

Watch this space – and help CPRE London defend London’s green lung.