Hyde Park could be redesigned and lost species including beavers reintroduced to London under ambitious rewilding plans.
The city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, is working with Ben Goldsmith – a member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the brother of Khan’s former rival for the mayoral election Zac Goldsmith – to boost nature in the capital, including making the royal parks wilder and encouraging people to plant green rooftops.
Ben Goldsmith said the plans would involve “more wild spaces, more scrub, river rewiggling and species reintroductions”.
Khan has released £600,000 in funding to assist the project, which will help London reach its net zero goal. Further fundraising will take place, with members of the new London rewilding roundtable group tasked with sourcing private donations.
Goldsmith said: “I’m so excited to be working with Sadiq on this new rewilding taskforce for London. All people need to experience close connection with nature in their lives, and yet for many Londoners this is a remote possibility today.
“From green rooftops to pocket parks, nest boxes for peregrines and swifts, rewiggling streams and reintroducing long lost native species, our plan is to weave wild nature back through the very fabric of our city.”
There are 1,600 places designated by local authorities as sites of importance for nature conservation, covering 20% of the capital. These include Richmond Park, Sydenham Hill Wood and the downlands in Bromley and Croydon that inspired Charles Darwin’s discoveries. At the moment, just half of these are deemed appropriately managed to conserve or enhance the wildlife.
The project will focus on 20-30 of these sites to protect species including stag beetles, sparrows, peregrine falcons and water voles. Khan has stated an aim for all Londoners to live within a 10-minute walk of green space, with this scheme aiming to connect existing spaces so everyone in the capital can enjoy nature.
It is also hoped the work will help tackle problems that plague Londoners including flooding and air pollution. Improving floodplains, rewiggling streams and boosting the health of rivers can alleviate floods, and planting more greenery can ease air pollution.
Khan said: “The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. In London, we need to take bold action to ensure we not only halt the decline of biodiversity in our natural environment but pave the way for growth and change.
“That’s why I’ve announced my new rewilding fund, which will help restore the capital’s precious wildlife sites, improve biodiversity and ensure all Londoners have a thriving web of nature on their doorstep. And as part of our green new deal, we’re supporting young Londoners to gain the skills required for jobs that help secure a future for London’s natural environment.”
Nature campaigners have been trying to add wildlife back to London, with a beaver group comprising Wildlife Trusts, the Beaver Trust and Citizen Zoo working on how to return the species to the capital.
The community wilding group Citizen Zoo is also involved with projects to return grasshoppers and water voles to areas in the city in which they have been depleted or lost.