Two of the many great things about London are the River Thames and the large number of open spaces you can escape to, spaces where you can cycle, fish, run, play, walk your dog, watch the world go by or simply rage against the machine.
Much of London's infrastructure, from its sewers right through to its lay-out with large public spaces, was created by the Victorians. They even built an empire and established economic models to fund the growth of the country. They recognised the importance of creating public spaces, like Victoria Park, to help keep their workforce healthy and happy. Chancellor George Osborne is a history scholar, so would know all of this better than I.
Fast forward to today and we're in the process of finally upgrading London's Victorian sewer system and re-shaping warped financial systems, but Chancellor Osborne is busy dismantling the legal powers that protect our open spaces. He's described the Habitats Regulations as a 'ridiculous cost on British business'. This legislation doesn't stop development or business growth, it guides and enhances our world; incorporating the needs and impacts of wildlife, nature and people. It helps make money by ensuring there is natural water drainage, natural air cooling, space for wildlife so it doesn't conflict with business operations and provides those all important spaces we all need. A bonus income comes for tourism or recreation in these spaces. Investing in nature makes simple economic good sense.
With your support we will be campaigning to stop George Osborne throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to safeguarding our natural heritage. It's not all doom and gloom though and the RSPB isn't anti-development.
East London has always been more divided than west London, partly because the river's wider and it's more difficult to build bridges. The Chancellor would like to see this resolved as quickly as possible, as would most residents and the RSPB. Three crossings are proposed, two near City airport linking the O2 Arena with Silvertown and a second at Gallions Reach. The third would be near the existing Dartford tunnel and bridge. These crossings will improve access to green space for residents both sides of the river and there's great scope for improving environmental infrastructure around them too.
There's been much debate around the meaning of the Chancellor's words on a new estuary airport. Mr Osborne appears to have taken a swift and unexpected U-turn on behalf of his Government colleagues to support the notion of a new airport along the Thames. The area has a handful of designations (including four Internationally recognised SSSI's and an SPA if you were wondering). A mistaken conception is that the estuary is simply a body of muddy water. It is a thriving and dynamic place where many rare creatures live, it includes unique spaces on a scale not seen in most of Europe. Rare short-snouted seahorses are recorded here and it's a breeding and nursery area for a variety of internationally protected fish species; add to this the thousands of native and migrant birds that rely on it to survive.
The RSPB will defend the Thames and London's green spaces to get the best outcome for nature, local communities and development.
If you want to campaign with the RSPB to save nature and protect special places then please go to www.rspb.org.uk/campaignchampions