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We have criticised today’s announcement on levelling up as a missed chance to rectify the gross inequality of access to local spaces.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has unveiled his ‘levelling-up plan’ without a mention of the importance of local green spaces. Yet these, which have always been important, proved to be vital during the pandemic, for the public’s mental and physical health, and they have a crucial role in addressing the impact of the climate crisis.
The paper contains 12 national, levelling-up missions (policy objectives) to be given legal status, with the aim of shifting government focus and resources to forgotten communities. All this is to be achieved by 2030. One aim is to improve wellbeing in every area of the UK. Another is to increase people’s pride in place, closing the gap between the top- and bottom-performing town centres and local cultures. It is unclear how these dramatic changes will be achieved.
The society has long been concerned about the government’s lack of urgency in addressing inequality of green space. In 2021, when the government made amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the society highlighted the bungled opportunity to improve and strengthen the process in the NPPF to designate land as a local green space (LGS). The society considers it vital that government provides sufficient funding, and overhauls neighbourhood planning, to ensure that LGS designation is made easier, with encouragement for local people to get involved.
The society also runs its Grant a Green campaign, in which it urges local councils voluntarily to register their green spaces as town or village greens, thus protecting them from development and giving local people rights of recreation there.
Says one of our case officers, Nicola Hodgson: ‘The government cannot seriously run a levelling-up programme while neglecting the glaring inequality of access to local green space. It must invest in those areas where people cannot have ready and safe access to a green space on their doorstep, and ensure that such spaces are provided.
‘People must also be able to designate local spaces as LGS to secure their protection, so that the multiple benefits they provide endure for future generations. The government has omitted a vital piece of the levelling up jigsaw from its proposals.’
Nicola attended the February 2022 launch of the CPRE research report about LGS. She raised longstanding OSS concerns about the difficulties people experience in trying to use the LGS designation to protect local spaces and also the fact that a planning application can be made whilst an LGS submission is being considered, thus undermining the process. We have previously highlighted these concerns
Further details about the LGS designation can be found here