Seema Malhotra MP litterpicking
Seema Malhotra MP litterpicking

Last week I joined local residents in Hanworth Park with our new London Borough of Hounslow Lampton Services Countryside Rangers for the first inspiring Sunday afternoon session for the new Volunteering in Parks project.

There are many initiatives supporting the environment and green spaces in our local area, but this one is different. It is an opportunity to be part of a journey, supporting the health of our parks while building knowledge of nature and biodiversity. You don’t have to go every week, but it’s a great opportunity for younger and older residents alike to get some outdoor time, learn from nature experts and make a difference.

I became a member of Friends of the Earth aged 17 as a pupil at The Green School, before I even joined the Labour Party. Cleaning up the local parks, which desperately needed it, was one of my early volunteering roles in Hounslow.

London became the world’s first National Park City in July 2019, so that Londoners and urban nature could be better connected. The National Park City Foundation describes how our city is almost 50% green and blue space – home to an astonishing 15,000 species, 8 million trees, and dozens of protected habitats. There are things to do every week in London’s thousands of parks, community gardens, green spaces, rivers and canals. Indeed, the London National Park City Project shows that we are leading the way around the world, and I am proud the Chair is Navdeep Deol, one of the founders of the Heston Action Group. The recent Volunteering in Parks projects led by our Countryside Rangers are happening in different parks across the borough and at different times of the week, so there is opportunity for all to get involved.

The Sunday afternoon sessions at Hanworth Air Park are running from 2pm-4pm. All are welcome to turn up, find out more, get stuck in with some litter picking around the site, and (weather and ground conditions permitting) participate in wildlife surveys, bat and bird box installations, and woodland thinning and coppicing. No experience is necessary, and all tools will be provided including children’s litter pickers for younger helpers. Children under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Taking part in nurturing our green spaces is a great way to promote sustainability, resilience, health and wellbeing, and community cohesion. And in Hanworth Air Park – where we all want work to begin as quickly as possible on restoring the historic Hanworth Park House – it’s also helping to protect our heritage.

I’m proud that Labour has a plan for nature recovery across our green spaces, beaches, and rivers. It is vital to turn the tide on 14 years of neglect under the Tories with a strengthened Environment Improvement Plan, holding water bosses to account and supporting wildlife by growing nature-rich habitats like wetlands and forests.

Sadiq Khan has pledged to invest at least £30 million in nature if he is re-elected on May 2nd – funding tree planting and rewilding, including the return of bats and otters to the Thames, as well as a plan to make all of London’s rivers swimmable in ten years. Meanwhile, Tories in Hillingdon have applied for permission to dump sewage into the River Crane, an issue on which I have written to Hillingdon Council to oppose.

Political leadership matters, because we need government, the mayor and communities working together to protect our local environment. Under Labour we created over 20,000 hectares of new woodland, and created the UK’s first National Park since the 1950s in the New Forest. Clean and healthy environments and green spaces are a matter for all of us and are our responsibility for future generations.

Seema Malhotra MP with Countryside Rangers in Hanworth Air Park
Seema Malhotra MP with Countryside Rangers in Hanworth Air Park
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