Updated: May 13
I am a local community organiser and activist, and a member of a number of green space groups.
Over the past year, many people have grown to love their local green spaces, and have found it a sanctuary and place of connection (with nature, and seeing people (even if they couldn't actually speak with them!), and for children more recently being able to use playgrounds). In Feltham we have seen an explosion of local litter picking groups, as people have discovered the treasures on their doorsteps and wanted to cherish them, and this is replicated across SW London of community-led action including Heston and Cranford Action groups, work in Berrylands nature reserve, Dukes Meadows, Kneller Gardens, Feltham Pond and more.
However, many green spaces are under threat from development. A large part of the Feltham Marshalling Yards were lost to a new train depot – and as yet no secure public access to the remainder of the site is yet to be taken forward. Just this week, a planning proposal has been submitted for a 14-storey building on the site of a former allotment by Feltham station adjacent to the Longford River – the so called ‘New Road Triangle’ – a process that has been less than transparent, and would overshadow the one-storey Showpeople’s site next door.
The Hounslow Local Plan which is about to be formally inspected, proposes building on 125 acres of green belt – the size of 200 football pitches, covering a vast swathe of land around Bedfont and Hounslow Urban Farm.
However, the greenbelt review lacked community participation, and seemed more driven by plans for Heathrow expansion. Councils have announced climate emergencies, but are their policies really backing this up, and is the Mayor providing sufficient scrutiny of these proposals. Elsewhere land under MoL and OoLTI is also under threat – and once lost, this land is seldom replaced.
We asked our local GLA candidates to state their views about development on green space, and to describe how they would ensure the Mayor undertakes proper scrutiny of developments and protection for these vital green lungs. What evidence can show that they are a green space champion?
Here’s what they said:
Labour candidate Candice Atterton described a number of local green schemes and the importance of these to her community., observing that there is a tension between new housing and green space. She would only build on Metropolitan Open Land as a last resort but it does need to be considered, she said.
Richmond Council leader and LibDem candidate Gareth Roberts said that Richmond has a proud tradition of maintaining access to open spaces, working closely with the Royal Parks to introduce road traffic schemes that both protect these spaces and make them more accessible.
Nicholas Rogers, for the Conservatives, says there is plenty of other more suitable land to build on in London, such as brownfields sites. He says the Green Belt is one of the most successful post-war policies and must be defended.
Green party candidate and Richmond Councillor Andree Frieze believes there is a need to bring 'green' to high streets and take it away from cars. She talks about green corridors and bridges over roads, reforesting some of the green belt, and promoting farming and local food production.