To levelling up ambitions

Green space charity Fields in Trust has said if progress is to be made on the government’s 'levelling-up' agenda, the nation’s parks must be protected from further loss.

Their annual ‘Green Space Index’ report suggests Britain’s local parks and green spaces have a significant role to play in restoring a sense of community and local pride as well as contributing to health, wellbeing and climate change resilience.

Local authorities in the government’s priority levelling-up areas have, on average, 10% less green space provision when benchmarked against the amount communities need to thrive. The amount of green space per person in these priority levelling-up areas is set to decline by 2040 as population grows say Fields In Trust. Earlier research from the charity valued the health and wellbeing benefits for park users at more than £34 billion each year. Regular users of parks have fewer visits to their GP resulting in an annual saving to the NHS of £111 million.

Fields in Trust's Green Space Index analysis demonstrates the disparities between nations and regions that the levelling-up programme is attempting to rectify. Fields in Trust found that Yorkshire and the Humber and the north west region fall well below a minimum standard for green space. Scotland, at 41 square metres per person, has more green space provision than both England and Wales. As a region, London’s green space is very accessible, but the region has the least green space per person, at just 19 sqm.

Speaking at the Westminster launch of the charity’s new analysis, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the DLUHC Parliamentary select committee and a Trustee of the Fields in Trust charity said, “The role of green infrastructure in planning and healthy place-making should be central to government ambitions to rebalance geographic inequalities. Yet 2.8 million people already live more than a ten-minute walk from a public park, with levelling-up target areas having around 10% less green space than the average across Britain”.

Fields In Trust say alongside their value for community health and wellbeing, local parks have a vital role to play in supporting our environment. These spaces improve air quality, capture harmful carbon and boost biodiversity.

In a statement the charity said, "Levelling-up requires a focused, long-term plan of action if it is to act upon the drivers of spatial disparity. Ensuring all neighbourhoods have accessible provision of parks and green spaces can help address a complex set of targets set by government – which include improving pride of place, developing climate resilience, and improving local community infrastructure."

Fields in Trust’s analysis suggests that, unless local parks and green spaces are protected in the long-term, any levelling-up interventions will be transitory.

Chair of Fields in Trust, Jo Barnett, said: “We know that parks and green spaces play a vital role in people’s health and wellbeing, yet the Green Space Index demonstrates uneven provision across Great Britain, and our most vulnerable communities are impacted negatively.

"Although the scale and interdependency across the levelling-up portfolio is intensely complex, parks and green spaces deliver impacts across the range of social policy agendas yet remain undervalued for the multiple benefits they contribute to our communities. The climate crisis adds a new impetus to protect urban green space and as our work in Liverpool shows local authorities are recognising the important part green space plays in our neighbourhoods, towns and cities and stepping-up to ensure it is future proofed.”

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