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London Victoria Embankment Gardens Threatened By Commercial Exploitation



Greenwich Park London by eGuide Travel via flickr

Members of Parliament are concerned that the existence of London’s public parks may be threatened by commercialization.

The Friends of Finsbury Park are pursuing Haringey Council through the courts to protect their park, and the Battersea Park Action Group have stymied further Formula E Motor racing in Battersea Park. Westminster City Council want to take this threat to a new level by developing a large part of Victoria Embankment Gardens for commercial use.

Westminster City Council is supporting Underbelly Limited in applying to construct a huge tent dominating the heart of Victoria Embankment Gardens, one of London’s most historic parks, for large scale theatre productions eight times a week for over 9 months a year, initially for three years. This proposal for a so-called “temporary” installation when combined with Plan- it’s November/December Christmas event will see a large part of the Gardens effectively closed all year to the general public. This application is the latest stage in the creeping commercialisation of the gardens in recent years – all with the active support of the Council.

How could this happen? We would expect that such an important site with such heavy and varied public use could only be built over in exceptional circumstances. With over forty venues already operating in London’s thriving Theatreland, only a short distance away, it is hard to see that the gain of an additional theatre can justify the loss of such a prominent public green space. The many campaigners against Underbelly’s plans suspect that the real reason for this planning proposal being brought forward might be the commercial value to Westminster City Council of renting out Victoria Embankment Gardens. The Council stands to gain millions of pounds in revenue should the application by Underbelly be approved.

This application is currently before Westminster Council’s Planning department and has already been shown to conflict with numerous planning policies and statutory restrictions. But what confidence can users of the park have in a fair planning process where the Council itself will make a substantial profit from the venture? Those in the Council’s Events Team, who are promoting the project, and the Council’s Planning Department responsible for approving the planning application even report to the same councilor – Deputy Leader Robert Davis.

Our parks are not commercial assets to be exploited as much as possible. They are trust assets held for the public good – to be enjoyed by sandwich munchers, plant enthusiasts, heritage seekers, tourists, dog walkers, stressed office workers and London visitors alike. Our representatives at Westminster City Council are abusing this trust and, it would seem, cannot be held democratically accountable in Boroughs like Westminster where a single party and a few individuals exercise almost unconstrained power. Many will recall the Council’s attempts to boost its income in recent years through levying additional parking charges, similarly appearing to flout all of the statutory constraints on exploiting their powers for commercial gain. Truly a modern “rotten borough”.

Campaigners feel that the Council are now threatening to push this proposal through with senior Council personnel supporting Underbelly. It has been reported that an Underbelly employee told a resident that “it was a done deal”. Over 110 objections have been registered so far, including from City Hall, Historic England, the London Parks and Garden Trust and the Open Spaces Society, with campaigners vowing to continue raising public awareness of the threat, not just to Embankment Gardens, but all London parks. – Quotes Park User’s perspective

“It’s a disgrace that Westminster City Council are building over the Gardens. At a time when green spaces and green belt land is under so much pressure, our Council should be protecting this precious asset not destroying it for their own gain.” David Codd, Kipling House, Villiers Street Business Perspective “Westminster Council describe the Gardens as “a welcome retreat from busy Embankment and bustling Villiers Street and is popular with office workers as a pleasant space to eat lunch and relax”. Our staff certainly agree and can’t understand why Westminster would consider allowing a private organisation to deprive the public of their enjoyment of this little gem.” – Neil Bassett, Head of Facilities, Hempsons


Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness



Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.

While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.

One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move



Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.

1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.

4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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