Urban green space report misses trick  

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We have welcomed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s letter to the Defra secretary, Stephen Barclay, with its findings on its inquiry into urban green spaces. 

Town green in Witney, Oxfordshire, dedicated (with a new footpath) by developer Richmond Care Villages in 2020 as part of its new development, in return for the Open Spaces Society withdrawing its objection to a footpath diversion. Photo: Open Spaces Society

The committee concluded that ‘these vital parts of communities are under serious threat’ and in need of urgent action to reverse their national decline, despite their immense environmental and health benefits. 

While we applaud these findings we consider that the committee missed a trick in not calling for the compulsory registration of land as a town or village green to secure green spaces as part of development, and for the voluntary registration of greens by landowners. 

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘In presenting our evidence to the committee, we urged it to recommend the registration of land as town and village green, which gives legal rights of access for local people, and protects the land from development.  This is a neat way of securing permanent, good-quality open space integral to new development.  We are sorry that the committee does not mention this in its letter to Stephen Barclay.’ 

The society is pleased that the committee has recommended better funding mechanisms for green spaces, recognising their multi-benefits for people and as mitigation against climate crisis, and the need for cross-departmental action and joined-up thinking. 

Kate continues: ‘We urge government to take immediate action on the committee’s letter; our green spaces cannot be left to decline.’ 

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