Green space vital to help tackle climate change, government says

Government minister Margaret Beckett has called on local authorities to ensure green spaces are an "integral" part of planning as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

Mrs Beckett, minister for housing and planning, described the “bits between buildings as important as the buildings themselves” in a speech to green space experts, planners, developers and health officials at the CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) and Natural England ParkCity conference in London last Tuesday (Mar 24).

She said: “Green and open spaces are essential to creating places which both respond to and help mitigate the effects of climate change. They provide a haven for wildlife, and a corridor to support migration. They help prevent flooding and reduce carbon emissions.”

She cited Manchester University research showing a reduction in green spaces in the city could result in a temperature increase of more than eight degrees by the 2080s.

She also highlighted the value of green spaces or “green infrastructure” for public health, boosting the economy by raising quality of life and attracting highly skilled people, investment and businesses and in helping to mould communities.

“If you want to truly shape a community, rather than a collection of individual houses, then you must treat the ‘bits between the buildings’ as important as the buildings themselves,” she said. “Not just an afterthought but an integral part of the neighbourhood.”

She added: “Our parks and playgrounds help us meet our neighbours, raise our children, feel a sense of belonging. We all feel the difference instinctively.”

In recent years the emphasis has been on not only preserving but promoting green infrastructure, which include parks, playgrounds, woodland, cycling and running trails, she explained.

She acknowledged some two thirds of English local authorities are making green infrastructure “an integral part” of future plans and urged the rest to follow suit
”I would like to see all authorities following this lead,” she said.

The new planning act 2008 allows local authorities to impose a community infrastructure levy, akin to the exiting Section 106 contribution. She called for the cash to be used on green infrastructure.
”Given what we know about the benefits of public spaces, I’d expect to see that being invested in green infrastructure just as much as in traditional forms of infrastructure,” she said.

She listed government investment in green spaces and told the conference green spaces would be at the “heart” of the new eco-towns with an expectation they make up a minimum of 40% of the towns – at least half being public spaces.

And, she unveiled a £1 million government scheme in which 44 local authorities will recruit a total of 61 “green apprentices” to learn horticultural skills in England’s parks and green spaces in a bid to tackle a skills shortage.

“We can capitalise on a stronger, more effective planning system to create great green spaces: and we can encourage highly skilled, dedicated people to look after them. And we will all feel the benefit.

Sam Bond

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