UK government launches scheme to boost green spaces in urban areas

The green infrastructure partnership has no financial backing but has cross-government support and backing of influential groups

The scheme will encourage developers to include landscaped roofs and green outdoor spaces.

The government is to press planners and developers to include more green space in new urban projects as part of a scheme intended to both make towns and cities more liveable and, in theory, boost the economy.

While the green infrastructure partnership, launched on Tuesday morning, promises no new cash, it brings cross-government support and the backing of influential groups such as the Town and Country Planning Association and the Landscape Institute, as well as a series of developers and housing groups.

While theoretically intended for all of England, the two-year push will be principally aimed at urban and suburban areas. Planners and developers will be encouraged to include landscaped roofs and green outdoor areas where people can sit within new or redeveloped commercial or residential schemes.

On a smaller level, local groups and individuals will get help to turn scrubland or abandoned sites into new parks, community vegetable gardens and the like.

Despite the lack of new government investment the project is “more than an aspiration”, insisted the environment minister Richard Benyon, who formally launched the scheme.

“It can sound a bit high blown, or airy fairy, but the point is that it does make a difference in many ways. This is now starting to be properly understood and appreciated in financial terms. Research shows the health benefits of people being connected to nature.”

The Landscape Institute, the professional organisation for landscape architects, has put together a series of model projects, ranging in size from a vast business and retail development in Victoria, central London, which features a partly grassed central plaza, to a small community garden built on abandoned railway land in Dalston, an economically deprived area in the east of the capital.

Such more modest schemes were in tune with the times, the body’s chief executive, Alasair McCapra, said: “The days of large-scale projects are over until the economy recovers, but you can get a big return on small investment out of local infrastructure. When times are tough it matters more to people that the places they live and work in look their best, and help attract new business and investment.”

There was also a direct environmental benefit, which in turn boosted the economic impact he said, pointing to the Victoria development, where the launch took place. Plans were in progress to landscape much of the roof space covering the project, providing much-needed rain catchment in a heavily built-up area.

“It not only makes the place more pleasant for people to work, it helps prevent flooding,” he said. “When there’s very heavy rain here, Victoria tube station often floods. If you’re a business it makes economic sense to do something that means your staff won’t be two hours late for work because they can’t get in.”

The green infrastructure partnership was one of several pledges to improve England’s natural environment, outlined in a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs white paper which was published in June.

Author: Peter Walker
Photography: Christopher Thomond
Source: The Guardian



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