Sheer Khan

Sadiq Khan leads London until 2020. Now he must make good on his pledges to protect, extend and improve green and play spaces for the capital’s children – his next voters, says Friends of the Earth’s Paul de Zylva. 

Paul De Zylva

written by Paul De Zylva

Being Mayor is about more than keeping the tube running. As usual the media focus was on transport and housing – with a bit of racism thrown in.

The media thrives on division and is easily bored if candidates agree – but that’s just what’s needed if London is to remain civilised (link).

In this the 5th Mayoral race, more than in the previous 4, the main candidates were closer together on many things.

Unity over division

Candidates agreed on the need not just to protect London’s green spaces but to improve them and play spaces and children’s safe access to their city.

Pledges went far beyond the usual bland promise to plant X number of trees.

My usual response to such vague pledges is to ask: Where? What species? How will they be maintained? For the record, Sadiq’s tree pledge is less vague than the usual ones:

“Embark on a major tree-planting programme across London, in partnership with businesses and the public sector, with a particular focus on schools and colleges.”

Stealing ideas

London’s Evening Standard which backed Zac Goldsmith said ‘the greenest mayor is precisely what Mr Khan should now become. His ambition should always be to leave London a cleaner, more pleasant city than he found it.’

The Standard also advised Sadiq to ‘steal’ some of Zac’s policies on the natural and built environment. Sowing the Seeds agrees.

Yes we Khan

Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan

Of Sadiq’s many election promises, perhaps the most significant is his commitment that all children should have access to nature.

This strongly echoes the vision set out in Tim Gill’s 2011 Sowing the Seeds report (link), that “all children in London have good access to sites where they can experience nature as part of their everyday lives, and have engaging everyday nature experiences in such a site, beginning in their early years.”

Overall, 3 of Sadiq’s promises stand out for us – see below.

We’ll cut out and keep these and both track and help him to stick to them.


1.    Protect nature and play space
Protect the green belt, green spaces and play spaces, prioritising development on
brownfield sites.

Strengthen protections for open spaces within the London Plan, including playing fields,
Metropolitan Open Land, and our Sites of Importance for Local Nature Conservation and
nature reserves.

Protect wildlife and biodiversity by creating green corridors through the city.

Ensure that the Met Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit continues to receive the resources it
needs to be effective.

2.    Improve walking and safety
Appoint a pedestrian champion to lead on measures to make walking safer and easier
across London.

Open up more walking routes around London. Work with local councils and TfL to
improve the London Loop and Capital Ring walks.

Establish safe walking routes, to give children cleaner and safer journeys to school,
avoiding busy and polluted roads where possible.

Complete the Thames Path, working with boroughs, landowners and business to complete
missing sections and protect access to what is already open.

3.    Make London the first ‘National Park City’
Setting a long term target to make more than 50 per cent of our city green and ensure that
all children have access to nature.


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