Green infrastructure: more green space for England’s towns and cities
Defra’s Landscape Strategy and Policy Team describe how the recently created Green Infrastructure Partnership will support the creation of more green space for England’s towns and cities, bringing the benefits of connecting with nature to more people and meeting a key commitment of the Natural Environment White Paper.
One of the main ambitions of the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper is to strengthen the connections between people and nature. Everyone should have fair access to a good-quality natural environment, to connect with nature and enjoy its benefits.
The White Paper also seeks to support natural systems to function more effectively in town and country, creating an ecological network resilient to changing pressures. Through joined-up action at the local and national levels, these ambitions can stand alongside that for a green and growing economy.
Green spaces across England
One of the most important ways to help turn these ambitions into reality is through the development of green infrastructure: generating more green space in England’s towns and cities. Green infrastructure is a planned network of green spaces and other environmental features, including street trees, gardens, green roofs, community forests, parks, rivers, canals and wetlands.
The benefits of green infrastructure are many. For example, it has been shown to reduce the ‘urban heat island effect’ and lessen flooding by increasing rainfall capture. And a recent study of over 350,000 people published in the Lancet found that people who lived near to green space lived longer and this significantly reduced health inequalities, even when all other factors were accounted for.
So, the White Paper contains the following commitment:
The Government will establish a Green Infrastructure Partnership to support the development of green infrastructure in England. This will consider how green infrastructure can be enhanced to strengthen ecological networks and improve communities’ health, quality of life and resilience to climate change.
The Green Infrastructure Partnership will bring together expertise in civil society, professional bodies, local authorities, developers, planners and social housing enterprises, among others. Speaking at the launch of the Partnership on 11 October, Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP said:
“Green spaces are not only important for our health and well-being; they also create places where people want to invest, generating new jobs and businesses. We’re used to thinking about drab, grey infrastructure – the roads, drains, power lines and other things on which we all depend. It is now time to place the same level of emphasise on our green infrastructure.”
The general aims of the Partnership will be to:
- Look at the condition of green infrastructure across England and how it meets communities’ needs;
- Investigate the scope for improvements, and look at the barriers to green infrastructure in existing areas to meet future challenges such as climate change;
- Consider how local communities, planners and decision-makers can best be supported in designing and developing green infrastructure;
- Demonstrate the social, economic and environmental benefits that well designed green infrastructure can provide; and
- Help people to quantify the costs and benefits of investing in green infrastructure and make the case for new projects.
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