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Ancient Woodland at Highgate Wood

​Overview

The City Corporation's elected members have agreed plans to ask Parliament for additional legislation to regulate our green spaces.

We manage 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) of green space in and around London and these sites attract over 23 million visits every year. Most are run as registered charities. Our involvement goes back to the 19th century when we first joined the fight to protect the capital's green spaces against encroachments by landowners, so that they would be available for the enjoyment of future generations.

These green spaces are largely governed under special Acts of Parliament, many dating back to the 1870s. This legislation has generally served its purpose well. It places a number of important duties on us, such as keeping the green spaces as areas of public recreation and preserving their "natural aspect", and these would remain in place under the new legislation. But it has become clear that there are areas where our legal powers would benefit from being clarified, strengthened or brought up to date.

The proposals have three main objectives:​​​​

1. General management powers

​These would cover matters such as management of vegetation, the installation of utilities infrastructure like drains and electricity cables underneath the spaces, and the removal of objects unlawfully deposited in the spaces, like abandoned camping equipment.

In these instances the main intention is to make sure that there is a clear statutory basis for existing activities rather than to see any change in the way the spaces are run. In a few cases there would be extensions to our existing powers, such as allowing cafés to be let to external providers for longer than the current three-year limit and enabling us to co-ordinate our functions with highway and traffic authorities.

2. Strengthening our powers to deal with anti-social behaviour

The main proposal is to enable us to give Fixed Penalty Notices to people who breach the byelaws or commit other minor offences such as littering. At the moment our only means of enforcement is to take a full prosecution in the magistrates' court, which can be expensive and time-consuming for both sides. No one would have to pay under a Fixed Penalty Notice but it would give them the opportunity to avoid prosecution in return for paying a smaller fine than a court would be likely to impose. We are also seeking a formal power to require suspected offenders to give their name and address, so that we can take appropriate enforcement action (such as prosecution or giving a Fixed Penalty Notice).

3. Providing greater opportunity to generate income to be re-invested back into the running of our green spaces

Proposals include allowing us to let out staff accommodation which is no longer required for managing the green spaces, and enabling us to introduce charges for those who use the green spaces to carry out commercial activity which will be reinvested into the running of our green spaces.

The green spaces are also currently used for a variety of events like weddings, recitals and art shows - and we would like to provide a clear formal basis for them. No major change in the type of events is envisaged. If the legislation is passed, full consultation will take place in order to draw up policies as to the type and frequency of events which may be permitted.

More information

The Bill was deposited in Parliament in November. The Parliamentary web page includes the text of the Bill together with details of the Parliamentary process. The page will be updated as the Bill makes progress.

We carried out an informal consultation (444KB) on these ideas before drawing up the formal proposals. The response was broadly supportive but a number of specific concerns were raised about how we could make sure that the new powers were used appropriately. We have done our best to address such concerns as part of the detailed drafting. The proposals will now be subject to scrutiny and debate in Parliament.


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