Business leaders called on to protect UK’s green spaces

Two of the country's leading environmental charity bosses are calling on business leaders and local authorities to strike a new deal to protect and maintain the country's green spaces.

CEO of Groundwork, Sir Tony Hawkhead and CEO of Keep Britain Tidy, Phil Barton, are urging business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to ensure the protection, development and management of green infrastructure are at the heart of their plans for spending £6bn of EU funding between 2014 and 2020.

The two organisations are today warning that, without radical thinking, budget reductions could lead to a decline in the quantity and quality of accessible green space in UK towns and cities with significant consequences for health and wellbeing.

Highlighting the CEOs call, a national survey recently published by Natural England shows that 4.3 billion visits were made by people to urban parks and green spaces over the last four years, with almost 90% saying the visit made them feel “refreshed and revitalised” or “calm and relaxed”.

The two charities have further stated that the potential for well managed green spaces to reduce budgets in other public services is well established. Individuals with easy access to green space are 40% less likely to become obese, a condition which currently costs the NHS £5bn per year to manage.

Keep Britain Tidy CEO, Barton, said: “Green space matters to everyone. The first public parks were created by enlightened civic leaders working with industrial philanthropists with the help of public subscriptions. We need to rediscover this spirit of joint enterprise.”

Commenting on the significance of last year’s Olympic Games in promoting and protecting green spaces, Hawkhead said: “We want every park in the UK to be an Olympic Park, delivering the same benefits for communities across the country. The challenge is to motivate businesses and mobilise the public to work creatively with local authorities to make this happen”.

The European Commission recently adopted a green infrastructure strategy highlighting not just health and environmental benefits but also the role green spaces have in creating jobs and encouraging business investment.

This strategy is one of a number of pieces of guidance recently issued to LEPs in England to help them prepare strategies for investing EU structural funds up to 2020.

Leigh Stringer

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