Government goes nowhere on green spaces

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We are deeply disappointed at the government’s lacklustre response to the recent Urban Green Spaces inquiry.

Last year the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee conducted an inquiry into the ecological, environmental, and human benefits of green space, and the most effective solutions to making cities greener and nature rich.

The society submitted evidence to the inquiry, and the committee’s recommendations were published in March. The committee called on government to give green spaces much higher priority, and to provide leadership in encouraging more investment in them.

However, the government is doing no such thing. The environment minister Rebecca Pow has replied to the committee’s chair, Sir Robert Goodwill, but with little new to say.

Whimbrel village green, voluntarily registered by East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council in Kent in 2020. Photo: David Thornewell.


Says Nicola Hodgson, one of our case officers: ‘The government has missed yet another opportunity to propose transformational change in the provision of green space.

‘It claims to be making progress on its promise to provide green or blue space within 15-minutes’ walk of people’s homes by January 2028, but there is no evidence that it will bring about the enormous shift that is needed. We have suggested that there could be a major effort to register land as town or village greens, which protects it from development and gives local people rights there. Our proposal has been completely ignored.

‘There is no intention to ring-fence funding for local authorities to provide, manage, and maintain open spaces, and no statutory requirement to provide them. Indeed, government has stepped backwards by refusing to give green and blue infrastructure the same value as building development.

‘It seems that the government will not revisit the National Planning Policy Framework provisions that allow disposal of green space; these must be changed to ensure that where disposal occurs, alternative land of equal or better value to the public is provided close by.

‘There are no mandatory targets for open spaces. Years of guidance and policy initiatives have resulted in gross under-provision and lack of permanent protection for green space. Again, our proposals for new town and village greens could remedy that.

‘Government mentions the designation of Local Green Spaces as enabling “special protection against development for green areas of particular importance to local communities”. However, we know such land is not safe, and have long argued that the process for designation should be improved and the protection strengthened to ensure they are not vulnerable to development. Again, no action.

‘The government’s response gives no comfort that the population’s urgent need for green spaces will be met. We shall continue our campaign to ensure they these vital spaces win the recognition and action they require,’ Nicola declares.

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