National Character Area 112

Inner London - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity


Predominantly urban, the Inner London National Character Area (NCA) lies at the centre of the Thames Basin on a broad flood plain which rises in gentle terraces, providing panoramic views of London’s skyline from the clay plateaux and ridges in the north at the border with the Northern Thames Basin. The NCA is steeped in both historical and contemporary culture; it is the centre of UK Government and a major international hub for finance, business, tourism, transport and recreation. Owing to its urban nature, Inner London relies heavily on ecosystem services provided by the surrounding NCAs, such as flood alleviation, air temperature regulation and recreational services. For example, the Thames Barrier in the Greater Thames Estuary is a major tidal flood defence for London.

However, the extensive network of green infrastructure throughout the NCA, including Local Nature Reserves such as Camley Street, provides outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat close to people’s homes and places of work. Reservoirs and wetlands such as the Lea Valley in the east provide opportunities for birding and fishing, as well as walking, cycling and boating. Water-based activities are provided along the Thames and its tributary rivers, the Grand Union Canal and Docklands. Parks and green spaces scattered among the built environment provide highly valued pockets of perceived tranquillity. Nevertheless, many communities in London suffer a shortage of green space close to where they live. The Thames Path National Trail also provides extensive walking opportunities following the river together with strategic walking routes such as the Capital Ring and the Jubilee Walkway.

The low, wooded ridges to the north and south form a low-key backdrop to the internationally significant buildings and cityscape in the wide valley bottom.

Some of the large central parks were previously Royal hunting grounds and have inspired many paintings and works of art. Other parts of London’s natural landscape have literary connotations, such as the River Thames which is vividly portrayed in the novels of Charles Dickens. The capital city also contains several World Heritage Sites including the Tower of London as well as eight landscaped Royal Parks.

Inner London can be described as being one of the ‘greenest’ cities in the world. Its allotments, rivers, reservoirs, parks and gardens often support a varied range of wildlife such as sand martins and hedgehogs, and peregrine falcons can be found nesting in some inner-city locations. Climate change, population growth and development are just some of the pressures facing Inner London and it is important that urban greening methods are supported and enhanced, including through London’s green infrastructure which comprises the natural and designed green spaces and vegetated surfaces across Inner London NCA.

Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.


Protect and enhance the landscape of the River Thames and its tributaries, and the extensive network of associated water environments, celebrating its rich industrial heritage, promoting sense of place, improving water quality and securing the long-term resilience of water resources, flood alleviation, biodiversity, geodiversity and recreation.


Protect and enhance the network of Inner London’s green spaces so that it provides services where people need them, promotes recreational and educational opportunities, supports biodiversity, reinforces local character and is resilient to future challenges such as climate change.


Protect, manage and plan for expansion of the urban forest as part of the area’s green infrastructure strategy to ensure that it meets future needs for climate regulation, supports biodiversity and recreation and strengthens local landscape character.


Reconnect people with nature by providing opportunities and access to engage with nature close to where they live, work and play, reinforcing sense of place, improving recreation and providing benefits for biodiversity and climate regulation.