Places to Be: Green spaces for active citizenship
Published by the Fabian Society in March 2015.
Places to be addresses concerns that the important role of green infrastructure in building communities and reversing the trend to individualism and isolation was not being matched by adequate consideration of how to ensure our green spaces are protected, properly managed and accessible to all during a period of continued austerity.
Central government funding for local authorities has fallen by around 40 per cent, leaving councils without the means to maintain facilities or engage with local people. Spending on parks is predicted to be reduced by 60 per cent, which means that management of budgets through efficiencies is not sustainable, and a radical re-imagining of services will be required.
The report recommends that Natural England become the central body coordinating action on green infrastructure, that Green Partnership Boards are created to provide local leadership and that a close and supportive partnership between local councils and communities becomes central to plans for our green space.
• A central body is needed to coordinate between the relevant agencies and government departments, to give clear responsibility and public accountability for green infrastructure.
• It is recommended that Natural England take on this role, as it has a strong research function that could share expertise with local areas and help local authorities think holistically about the rural and urban environment.
• While local government is talked of as an increasing political priority, its viability is threatened by increasing cuts, and the local expertise necessary to think creatively and strategically about open space is being lost.
• The creation of Green Partnership Boards, with executive responsibility for green space, is recommended to provide:
- Strategic leadership for the local environment.
- Support for more locally-focused projects.
- Facilitating collaboration between different stakeholders and the 48 Local Nature Partnerships.
- Management of the local authority’s green space strategy.
- Liaison with the proposed central body.
• Local councils need to retain their role as guardians of public assets, but shift from delivery to being custodians of place and convenors of local action.
• Green infrastructure has the potential to engage people in community life, but volunteers need to feel supported. Effective management of green and open spaces requires a level of skill and experience beyond most volunteers.
• Partnership between local councils and local communities is crucial, with community organising and development central to plans for our green space.
• The principles for democratic green spaces that should be observed are:
- Local difference must be respected
- Individual examples of good practice that are applicable elsewhere should be scaled up.
- The public character and ethos of green space must be preserved. New developments should increase the size of and access to the public realm.
- Equality of access: public space must not be the preserve of the affluent.
- Developing a shared civic vision: rekindling the spirit that created parks.
- Enable community participation and citizen control.
- Promotion of the preventative health benefits of access to green spaces.
You can read and download the report here.