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Sadiq Khan launches plans to make London the first National Park City at Woodberry Wetlands

PUBLISHED: 13:53 11 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:53 11 August 2017

Sadiq Khan takes part in a bit of pond-dipping. Picture: Sam Gelder

Sadiq Khan takes part in a bit of pond-dipping. Picture: Sam Gelder

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Sadiq Khan enjoyed a spot of pond-dipping in the sun at Woodberry Wetlands this morning as he launched his plans to make London the world’s first “national park city”.

Sadiq Khan gets shown how to pond dip. Picture: Sam Gelder Sadiq Khan gets shown how to pond dip. Picture: Sam Gelder

The mayor was in town to announce his new Environment Strategy, which aims to make more than half of London “green” by 2050. It includes using planning regulations to protect Green Belt land, creating more “green roofs” on buildings and mapping out areas of the capital most in need of “green infrastructure”.

There’s a £9million funding pot available to community groups who want to plant trees and maintain community spaces.

After being taught how to catch newts by youngsters and then doing the rounds with the national news broadcasters, Mr Khan told the Gazette he chose the Woodberry Down nature reserve for his launch because it has made green space and wildlife accessible to people on the estate. And because he hadn’t been there yet.

He said: “I’ve been lobbied extensively by Phil Glanville, who’s very very proud of the wetlands, and [London Assembly member] Jennette Arnold – and I was very keen to come and look for myself.

Sadiq Khan was at Woodberry Wetlands to launch his new Environment Strategy. Picture: Sam Gelder Sadiq Khan was at Woodberry Wetlands to launch his new Environment Strategy. Picture: Sam Gelder

“What impresses me most about it isn’t just the green space and the fact there’s wildlife but it’s made it accessible for local residents and others.

“If you imagine, you live in one of those tower blocks, there’s no green roof, but you now have access for the first time to these wetlands.”

Mr Khan said he was impressed with the new towers on Woodberry Down that do have green roofs, and said Hackney was leading the way in his hopes of making London a zero-carbon city by 2050.

“I’m a keen believer in looking at what works and scaling it up,” he explained. “If you look at Hackney, because of the leadership of Phil and before him Jules you’ve seen a borough which has the largest number of cyclists and has the least number of car owners, and where even young children are encouraged to walk. I want to scale that up across London. One of the reasons I love coming to Hackney is to look and learn and then copy.”

Sadiq Khan takes part in a bit of pond-dipping. Picture: Sam Gelder Sadiq Khan takes part in a bit of pond-dipping. Picture: Sam Gelder

Part of his plan includes encouraging people to walk and cycle more. To do that, his strategy includes plans to make London’s air as clean as possible. He is introducing the “T-charge” (toxicity charge) from October to tackle vehicle pollution, an ultra-low emission zone by 2019 and cleaning up the buses. But he also acknowledges the roads need to be safer.

“How can you encourage young people to get on a bike or an older person to return to cycling if it’s not safe?” he continued. “That’s why we’ve got the biggest package around walking and cycling ever seen in London.

“I’ve appointed the city’s first ever walking and cycling commissioner, Dr Will Norman, and we’re trying to join up the dots. Not just with more segregated cycle lanes but more quietways.”

The mayor would not be pushed on whether CS12, the route from East Finchley to Angel scrapped by Boris Johnson, would be revisited, though.

“Will Norman and [deputy mayor for transport] Val Shawcross have done a number of things,” he said. “Firstly, doubled the amount we’re going to spend on cycling from the previous mayor. Secondly, we’re reviewing all these cycle superhighways to see whether we can improve them and have more of them.

“Will Norman announced a week ago 25 cycle strategy routes, including outer London. For too long people have thought cycling is the preserve of Zone 1. We’ve got to make sure we make it easier to cycle in outer London. That means working closely with councils like Hackney but also having ‘joined-up-ness’. One thing I’m really pleased about is the 33 councils in London are working more closely with me than any previous mayors.”

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