NATIONAL PARK CITY NEIGHBOURHOODS x LONDON LOCAL NATURE RECOVERY STRATEGY

In July 2019 London became the world’s first National Park City. Hundreds of community groups, thousands of individual citizens, businesses and over two-thirds of London council wards supported the London National Park City Charter, committing to make London a National Park City. Since then we’ve established our London-wide Ranger programme, bringing together volunteers from every London Borough, who are active within their communities leading and supporting practical grassroots efforts to make each of their neighbourhoods greener, healthier and wilder.
London Boroughs are already leading the way in taking bold steps towards increasing biodiversity in their streets, and neighbourhoods, and making it easier for all Londoners to realise the health and wellbeing benefits of being outside and connecting with urban nature. Over the next two years the GLA will be preparing London’s Local Nature Recovery Strategy, and London National Park City will be supporting the public engagement aspects of this important work. For this next chapter we’re bringing these strands together through our new Neighbourhoods initiative, to establish National Park City within communities locally, so together we can make London greener, healthier and wilder.

WHAT’S IN THIS DOCUMENT
As we enter our fifth year, this document summarises an invite to each London Borough and our Regional partners to recommit to the principles contained within the London National Park City Charter, and to explore how we can work together to protect the biodiversity of the green and blue space we already have, and bring the benefits of getting active outdoors together to every Londoner.

This document is in three parts which together make up the National Park City Neighbourhoods programme:

Part 1 establishes the common ground upon which each London Borough can realise the benefits of the London Nation Park City in every neighbourhood in London around the principles outlined in the London Charter.

Part 2 will explore how we can work together to engage your citizens with the development of the forthcoming Local Nature Recovery Strategy for London, in conjunction with the GLA and each London Borough.

Part 3 introduces three practical collaborations that we can work on together to create the first National Park City Neighbourhoods; including outdoor events and activities, recruitment of local Rangers, along with signposting and wayfinding.

WORKING WITH LONDON NATIONAL PARK CITY

London National Park City was established as a long-term grassroots movement, and we’re introducing Neighbourhoods as a way of collaborating together to support the next chapter of the movement across London.
We already promote National Park City across London; with our recent #DoLondonDifferently campaign celebrating over 40 grassroots organisations featured on over 100 billboards across the capital, and we celebrated with over 30,000 people who attended the recent In A Field By A Bridge festival in Southwark for our 4th anniversary.

Ranger’s Lauren, Dan and Alisa at In A Field By A Bridge.

Our growing community of over 160 volunteer Rangers is our unique strength, drawn from and representing the hugely diverse communities of London. With your help we hope to recruit hundreds of motivated volunteers in every Borough – leading outdoor activities, nature engagement, walks, talks and leading health and wellbeing activity.

The greater awareness of the biodiversity crisis, especially the role that cities play, has led to concerted efforts by the Mayor and individual Boroughs to champion rewilding, street tree planting, measures to combat air pollution, and bring more greenery to our streets, communities and front gardens.

We’ve all come to realise the importance, health and wellbeing benefits to spending time outside together in nature. Public engagement with the Local Nature Recovery Strategy is an opportunity to take these commitments further, to connect the good work already outlined in your Local Plans, and fully involve all stakeholders within your Borough.

We’ll connect communities, families, schools, businesses, charities, and volunteers to deliver purposeful and practical climate and biodiversity action, get more people outside for the first time, and build social capital in every borough. Local projects will be connected to similar work across London, meaning each Borough will benefit from direct access to broader real-world experience, learning and knowledge; and will be better able to demonstrate greater impact and therefore potentially access more funding.
London National Park City Neighbourhoods create a space for all stakeholders and beneficiaries to contribute and participate; community groups, arts, culture, sports clubs, and faith groups, along with businesses small and large.

By working with us to create the first National Park City Neighbourhoods and realising the promise of the London National Park City Charter you’ll place the community in the lead in raising awareness and support for swift practical climate and biodiversity action in transforming our streets and neighbourhoods to be greener, healthier and wilder.

PART 1: LONDON NATIONAL PARK CITY CHARTER

The London Charter sets out how everyone can play an active role in delivering the benefits of London National Park City. The charter asks us to commit to working together for better:

Lives, health and wellbeing
Wildlife, trees and flowers
Places, habitats, air, water, sea and land
Time outdoors, culture, art, playing, walking, cycling and eating
Locally grown food and responsible consumption
Decisions, sharing, learning and working together
Relationships with nature and with each other

Working with you we’ll want to get alignment on the many things you may already be doing, or might fall under the commitments outlined in the charter.  Our volunteer Research and Learning team, made up of PhD and Masters students from across the UK, can carry out an initial discovery exercise considering how our Charter maps on to your Local and Environment plans. This could range from a light touch introductory workshop to a week or so of deeper engagement and preparatory work as budget allows.

We’ll want to consider not just the Local Plans for your area, but properly understand any existing nature and biodiversity protection and engagement programmes, the extent of the outreach and community activity you already undertake, the resources and staff you have available and already committed, and the ambition you have as a Borough aligns with the London Charter.

National Park City Neighbourhoods will allow us to build on the existing strengths and connections of the many local communities, faith, arts, culture and sports groups active in each Borough. To bring the benefits of National Park City thinking right down to the street and neighbourhood level.

This starting point will provide a useful guide for how best to work with the communities in your Borough, to consider how best to prototype new interventions, bring learning from elsewhere in the city, and celebrate the good work already being done. 

OUTPUT: A summary of actions we might take together over the next 6 to 24 months, seeking to align your commitments to the Charter with an actionable programme of community participation, with the first cohort of participating neighbourhoods identified.

PART 2: LOCAL NATURE RECOVERY STRATEGY

By March 2025 local nature recovery strategies (LNRS) will be in place in 48 regions including London, across the whole of England. The GLA is the responsible body for delivering London’s LNRS, and they will seek to work with each London Borough, London Councils and a number of other regional and local bodies to produce this strategy over a 12 to 18 month period. 

The GLA has asked London National Park City to support wider public participation with the development of London’s LNRS. We’ll seek to connect community strengths with the habitat protection and biodiversity priorities that will be set out in the LNRS, and we’ll start this process using the Cross Pollination methodology developed by The Glass-House Community Led Design and Open University.

CROSS POLLINATION

Cross Pollination is a community-led initiative to identify and harness existing neighbourhood strengths, involving workshop-led approaches with a range of community members and stakeholders to map assets, organisations and resources within their own community. 

Cross-pollination establishes a baseline of current climate and biodiversity activity in a neighbourhood, along with the pool of skills and resources that local groups and organisations possess – and will identify who we should be learning from, speaking to and getting involved with. It facilitates collaborative efforts between groups and provides us with a rich set of valuable connections and opportunities that can inform the LNRS. 

Cross pollination workshop in Brent. Image Credit: Ben Elford

We’ve trialled this approach successfully in Barnet and found that cross-pollination is a practical approach to incubating networks of place-based projects, collaborative research and innovation. The approach is based on the principle of creating a sharing economy of assets (skills, projects and resources) among different people and organisations, across disciplines and sectors.

We’ll share the wider outputs at public events and meetings within each neighbourhood and our Rangers will actively attend and participate in activities led by existing groups. 

This approach ensures we have a diverse pool of local voices to contribute and lead on decisions that affect their communities, and identifies local partners and volunteers who can take on and implement ideas generated during the workshops. 

OUTPUT: A rich-mapping of community strengths and opportunities to inform the written statement of biodiversity priorities at the heart of the LNRS for each Borough. A pool of motivated collaborators and volunteers, better able to influence and guide the delivery of these priorities, and the summaries prepared to share learning so that our collaboration can help inspire and inform others.

PART 3: AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE

The National Park City is an open and accessible way of helping people to see London differently, providing inspiration to help more people take the first steps on bringing more greenery and nature to their streets and homes.

We do this by sharing stories of how ordinary Londoners have taken the initiative themselves, creating community gardens, growing their own food, organising walks and workshops, sharing their passion and skills. 

Over the past three years we’ve built on this by recruiting these community champions as our volunteer Rangers, networking them together, and providing them with additional support, training and access to resources.

We’re extending an invitation for every Borough and Regional London organisation to work with us to take this further, making best use of the resources and support that each Council can provide, so that together we can reach more communities across London so that we can:

Celebrate and participate in coordinated Neighbourhood Days outside together in Boroughs across London to enable communities to take the lead in delivering urgent climate and biodiversity action locally.

Establish volunteer National Park City Rangers groups in each Neighbourhood, to make good use of the strengths and passions of your community members, and encourage more people to volunteer in protecting and improving green spaces and streets in your Borough.

Use Neighbourhood signposting and wayfinding to help people feel a sense of ownership and wonder of living in the world’s first National Park Cty and provide that essential reconnection with urban nature.

NEIGHBOURHOOD DAYS

Starting from Autumn 2023 we’ll coordinate activity across London Boroughs on quarterly London National Park City days, with each participating Borough hosting outdoor events around community activities, planting, and greening workshops.

This can be a combination of activities that you already have planned that can be supported under a London National Park City banner, or new activities we arrange with you and our City Rangers.

We’ll work together to enhance, connect and supercharge your existing programmes, ensuring greater citizen and community participation, with access to LNPC-backed communications, promotion and branding to reach a wider audience; importantly reaching those citizens that might not usually spend time outside in your parks and green spaces. We’ll make use of our Community Site to post, share, and coordinate activity, to get more people involved and active.

OUTPUT: An inspiring schedule of activities and events that will help build grassroots momentum and enthusiasm, celebrating activity in your borough and supporting National Park City commitments. It will make the most of your existing engagement and participation programmes – helping to get more people involved in delivering practical climate and biodiversity action street by street.

NEIGHBOURHOOD RANGERS

Our Ranger community is a diverse and active group of community champions drawn from almost every Borough of London. 

Currently we have over 160 volunteers across London; capable of leading walks, talks, workshops and activities aimed at getting more people active outside together and connected to urban nature – we’d like to see similar numbers in every London Borough. 

We want to work with you to recruit active volunteer Rangers directly in your neighbourhoods. Together we’ll identify candidates for a new cohort of National Park City Rangers locally, who can help you reach key audiences and communities; those inspiring, active, and passionate souls, who can best make use of the additional support, networking, community building and resources we can provide.

We’ll work with you to recruit, support and resource your local Ranger group. Aligning their activities with your local plans and existing initiatives, but bringing the wider learning, benefits and resources of our London-wide community to bear locally.

To support this we’ll need to work together to ensure that there are sufficient staff and resources with appropriate safeguarding in place for the operation of a safe and supported volunteer programme. This may build upon existing community engagement programmes you already run, or allow the development of a new programme.

With your direct support for at least a two-year commitment, and by securing additional external funding that we can help attract, we can manage the employment of a Ranger Coordinator in every Borough.

OUTPUT: An active volunteer Ranger programme within your Borough, aligned with and active within the London-wide community, delivering, participating in and leading practical climate and biodiversity action in your target neighbourhoods. Capable of drawing in more active people from across each community. 

NEIGHBOURHOOD SIGNPOSTING

Letting people know that they are in the world’s first National Park City is the first step on each person’s journey to reconnecting with nature.
We’ll work with you to improve the signposting and labelling of the fantastic green and blue natural resources you already have, and celebrate the new ways that people are bringing greening and nature into their streets and neighbourhoods.

This might mean badging events and activities with London National Park City in the same way that we did with Hounslow’s mini-guide, or looking for opportunities for permanent signage to community gardens, orchards, parks and green spaces.

These ‘waymarkers’ should build upon the community led priorities that we identify together through our cross-pollination exercises, and bring a physical aspect to mini-guides and route maps around your Borough.

OUTPUT: A practical plan for steps your Borough can take towards way-finding and signposting community led priorities as part of London National Park City, matched with ways to source funding and implement sustainably.

A FEW STARTING POINTS

This discussion document sets out a variety of options for London Boroughs to collaborate with London National Park City, and is intended to begin a discussion for how we might begin working together. A few questions to start with include:

  • Are you already familiar with the London Charter (it was supported by Councillors from two-thirds of wards in London)?
  • How aware of the LNRS are you and do you already have any plans for how to engage with and participate in the development process?
  • What events and activities do you already have planned in Autumn 2023 that we might work with you on?
  • Are there other areas of activity that you are leading on that we should be aware of?
  • How might we involve our current Rangers in supporting activities in your Borough?
  • What existing volunteer programmes do you run or support that we should be aware of?
  • Would you be interested in establishing a Neighbourhoods Rangers programme, and what resources and experience might we draw upon to enable this with you?
  • How might we unlock support and funding for Ranger coordinators?
  • What role does signposting and wayfinding play for you at the moment, and how might we establish some pilot projects with developments locally?

HOW WE’RE FUNDED

The National Park City Foundation is a UK based Charity number (#1173267) supporting the growth of the National Park City movement in London and globally.
We’re currently funded through a combination of donations from grant funders for core funding and corporate donations for project funding and our Ranger programme. We currently have a small staff team of our full-time Director, Mark Cridge, and two part-time Ranger coordinators.
In this document we have identified a number of valuable points of collaboration that would require funding at least in-part by each partner Borough – your help in identifying potential routes for funding from within the Council would be most welcome – either through existing funding programmes, or opportunities for direct project funding. We’d seek to support this further with additional grant funding and corporate donations.

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