Lee Valley Regional Park (Amendment) Debate

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Lee Valley Regional Park (Amendment)

Stella Creasy Excerpts
1st reading: House of Commons
Wednesday 22nd February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Lee Valley Regional Park (Amendment) Bill 2016-17 View all Lee Valley Regional Park (Amendment) Bill 2016-17 Debates Read Hansard Text

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Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
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I rise to oppose this legislation—[Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) will give me the opportunity to explain why. Let me declare straight away that, as a proud Member of Parliament for Waltham Forest, I am a regular user of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority spaces. I have been to the ice rink, but I have not been on the horses. I certainly walk through the wetlands, and I look forward to enjoying the Walthamstow wetlands. As a young child with grandparents in Surbiton, I also enjoyed the parks of Kingston.

The legislation that the hon. Gentleman proposes is fundamentally misguided, because he misses the point about the value of regional parks for London and other areas. I am talking about the benefits of maintaining and developing beautiful spaces for recreation, nature and enjoyment for all our constituents. I hope that, in the time available, I can set out the five reasons why I believe that, although he might think that he is standing up for the residents of Kingston, he may be selling them short.

First, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was set up to be a regional facility. It was established in the 1960s, before, I wager, both he and I were even born, to represent and reflect the fact that London needed green spaces. We refer to the Lee valley regional park as London’s lung; it is a beautiful park, providing 10,000 acres of green land that benefits every resident of London. Sir Patrick Abercrombie who argued the case for this park never saw it as simply benefiting those who lived nearby, but recognised that the investment in the park from all the regions would benefit every constituent. When the hon. Gentleman talks about visitor numbers, I share his concern that not as many of his residents regularly use the park, but I urge him to encourage them to come to the park and benefit from that green lung.

The hon. Gentleman says that there are residents in Kingston who have not even heard of the Lee valley regional park. I suggest to him that that is simply not true. Many of them will have watched, or indeed have visited, the Olympics, in which the Lee valley regional park played a key role. I wager that many of his constituents cheered on Joe Clarke as he won Britain’s first gold medal in the London Olympics at the Lee valley canoeing centre. The hon. Gentleman thinks that he is speaking up for his constituents, but what he may be doing is misunderstanding their pride in what the Lee valley regional park was able to deliver in the Olympics and what it continues to deliver today.

Certainly, when the hon. Gentleman talks about visitor numbers, he is missing out on the fact that we have seen a 50% increase in the number of people visiting the Lee valley regional park. I suspect that that is directly because people saw the benefit of having these wonderful Olympic recreational facilities on their doorstep in London. But this is not just about whether people are visiting, but about this concept of a green lung. The quality of air in our city has never been worse. I am sure that, like me, he has constituents who are deeply concerned about air quality in London. The value of our green space therefore becomes paramount not just to those who live in the area—[Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) jumping up and down. The same argument applies to her constituency, too. The value of such spaces is greater now as we face this crisis—I am talking about the quality of our air and of our natural environment in our city.

We have 14 sites of special scientific interest in the Lee valley regional park. Rather than not visiting the area, I invite the hon. Gentleman to join me when we open the Walthamstow wetlands to see for himself the benefit of the site. It will be a national site of significance. [Interruption.] Forgive me, I would like to invite all the Members on the Government Benches to visit the Walthamstow wetlands. They should come and see the herons and cormorants in London. [Interruption.] Members may chunter, but this is the point: sometimes we invest together because we benefit together. Lee Valley Regional Park Authority offers us exactly that opportunity. It was set up in the 1960s to recognise the mutual benefit of investing in green and recreational spaces in London, and in 2017, the case for those spaces grows ever bigger.

The hon. Gentleman’s proposed legislation would have more merit if he was expressing an equally forensic concern about the visits by the residents of Kingston to, say, the royal parks and asking about their funding. [Interruption.] I did listen to what he said, but I have looked at his legislation and he is not suggesting a similar cut in the royal parks’ funding to reflect his concern about whether residents from Kingston actually visit those parks. That is the point: we invest in these regional organisations for our mutual benefit. [Interruption.] I recognise the point that he made about local government cuts. I gently suggest to him that perhaps he should talk to his Front-Bench team about how they are funding local government, rather than trying to scrimp and save on such valuable regional assets. If we go down the route of only ever seeing parks as valuable to those people who live directly next to them—of whom I am one—we miss the point about how these amenities can benefit us all. I gently suggest to him that, rather than trying to cut corners, he make the case to his Front-Bench team about proper investment and funding in local government. He should not try to cut the funding for this green lung to London from which his constituents can benefit. Rather than suggesting to his constituents that there is nothing of interest in Lee valley park, he should encourage them to come and use the facilities that they are paying for. They will certainly receive a warm welcome from us all in the north-east corner of London.

In conclusion, although I recognise that the hon. Gentleman thinks that he is making the case for the residents of Kingston, he should consider that the residents of London, who include the residents of Kingston and Surbiton, deserve better from us all. They deserve some strategic thinking, so that we invest in regional parks such as Lee valley. We should see London as an urban green park in the future. We need to invest in our green spaces and, for the small amount of funding that that entails, recognise the benefits that exist for us all. We should also make a decent case for the funding of local government. As his Bill would do neither of those things, I do not believe that it should proceed further in the House, and I suspect that there others from different parts of London, and indeed from across the country, who will benefit from the Walthamstow wetlands, who would agree with me.

Question put (Standing Order No. 23) and agreed to.

Ordered,

That James Berry, Bob Blackman, Paul Scully, Bob Stewart, Dr Tania Mathias, Stephen Hammond, Robert Neill, Chris Philp, Mike Freer, Victoria Borwick and Mrs Theresa Villiers present the Bill.

James Berry accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 24 March, and to be printed (Bill 144).