A policy paper from the new Parks and Green Space Network (PSGN) calls on the UK Government to seize a ‘once in a generation chance’ to deliver a truly green economic recovery from COVID-19.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, parks and green spaces have provided a lifeline for millions. Rightly championed as crucial assets to maintaining people’s physical and mental health, they became a vital part of the national response to the pandemic.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we have the opportunity to make parks and green spaces a central part of the nation’s economic and social recovery. We need to recognise their role in improving public health, addressing climate change and reversing biodiversity loss.
Parks are THE smart infrastructure investment. For every £1 invested in urban green spaces, urban communities receive £7 in well being benefits. Parks in England deliver over £6.6bn of health, climate change and environmental benefits each year, including £2.2bn in avoided health costs alone. To seize these opportunities, the government must give them the support they need.
The report’s recommendations to government include:
- ‘Level up’ access to parks and green space. One in eight households (12%) in Great Britain has no access to a private or shared garden. . In England, black people are nearly four times as likely as white people to have no access to outdoor space at home.
- Invest at least £1bn per year into parks and green spaces. Under investment is rife, with billions of pounds lost in health and well being as a result. We need ‘shovel-worthy’, not just ‘shovel-ready’ projects, delivered in ways that address climate change, prioritise communities most in need, and improve our quality of life. We also need to make the most of the assets we already have, supporting skills and long-term maintenance.
- Place the same focus on sustainable operational funding for parks and green spaces as we do for capital investment.
- Invest in a talented green workforce. Our sector can help to create new green jobs, especially for young people and those living in disadvantaged areas. (The new level 3 Landscape Technician apprenticeship for parks provides an excellent opportunity for employers recruit more young people into this critical sector.)
- Introduce clearer rules and new green space standards in England to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’ in planning laws. We must avoid falling further behind countries such as Wales, Scotland, and overseas green infrastructure leaders such as Singapore.
Matthew Bradbury, Chairman of The Parks Alliance, said “To guarantee that the multiple benefits of parks are secured for the next generation parks must be part of the Green Recovery. After years of under funding and neglect they need investment to bring them up to standard and ensure that everyone can enjoy and benefit from a great park. A truly ‘Green Recovery’ will invest in the green space sector as an industry of the future uniquely placed to tackle the 21st century challenges of public health, climate change and environmental protection and one that provides a significant return for the investment made. It’s time to make parks count”.
Dan Cook, CEO of the Landscape Institute said “The Landscape Institute and The Parks Alliance are coming together as organisations. We have worked across the whole sector to bring more than 40 partner organisations together to create the new Parks and Green Space Network because we recognised the huge potential of urban landscapes like parks to tackle the key challenges of climate change, biodiversity and public health. The advent of COVID19 not only underlined and highlighted this potential but also provides an opportunity to ensure the recovery from the pandemic is a green recovery designed to realise the multiple benefits of these spaces. But to do so we need better decision making and better policy from government. This paper sets out five key asks of government designed to make sure the COVID19 recovery is ‘green’ and parks and green spaces are at its heart.”
The Parks and Green Space Network
Earlier this year the Boards of The Parks Alliance and The Landscape Institute agreed in principle to bring their organisations closer together in order to create a stronger voice, avoid duplication and to better support the parks and green space sector. Since that time TPA has published “Making Parks Count – The Case for Parks” and has been busy working with colleagues in the LI and from the sector to build the new Parks and Green Space Network. On the 17th July the new network met for the first time by zoom ratified its vision, mission, goals and working principles and set about delivering on these.
The Network includes over 50 leaders and experts from across the UK and the public, private and voluntary sectors who will decide on priorities and network members will be able to support delivery according to their interests.
The network’s vision is for everyone has access quality green spaces that improve their physical and mental health, are inclusive and contribute to the sustainability of their community and the world and support the economic vitality of their neighbourhood, town or city. One of its first goals was to ensure parks and green spaces play a key role in the government’s plans for a Green Recovery following the COVID19 pandemic. Members of the network supported the publication of ‘A Green Recovery for Parks and Green Spaces’ aimed at making parks and green spaces a central part of the nation’s economic and social recovery, recognising their role in improving public health and in addressing climate change and restoring nature.
The LI would like to thank the members of the Parks and Green Space Network for their invaluable contribution to this new policy paper:
- Jon Sheaff, Director at John Sheaff Associates
- Dr Tom Young MBiolSci, PhD, Technology Manager at STRI Group
- Sue Ireland, Consultant and former Director of Open Spaces at the City of London Corporation
- Peter Neal, Consultant at Peter Neal Associates
- Ruth Knight, Senior Policy and Programme Officer at the Greater London Authority
- Ruth Holmes, Design Principal for Landscape and Public Realm at the London Legacy Development Corporation
- Chris Worman, Parks and Grounds Manager at Rugby Borough Council
- Drew Bennelick, Head of Land and Nature Policy at the UK National Lottery Heritage Fund
- Victoria Bradford-Keegan, Delivery Director at Future Parks
- Matthew Bradbury, Chief Executive at Nene Park Trust
- Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive at Groundwork UK
- Sue Morgan, Director of Architecture and Built Environment at The Design Council
- Paul Todd, Green Flag Award Scheme Manager at Keep Britain Tidy
- Julie Proctor, Chief Executive at Greenspace Scotland
- Tony Leach, Chief Executive at Parks for London
- Helen Griffiths, Chief Executive at Fields In Trust
- Dave Morris, Chair of the National Federation of Parks and Greenspaces
- Kate Swade, Director at Shared Assets
- Alan Carter, Director of Portfolio Management at the Land Trust
The main report from the Landscape Institute, ‘ GREENER RECOVERY – Delivering a sustainable recovery from COVID-19’, can be found here.
The Supplement ‘A Green Recovery for Parks and Green Spaces’ can be found here.