How Local Authorities can Protect and Maintain Green Spaces now – and through the Recovery

  • 7th August 2020 at 11:32AM
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The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of green spaces within our communities. People want – and value more than ever – public parks and open green spaces to relax, exercise and meet in. Analysis of Google COVID-19 Community Mobility data[1] found that, on average, park usage in England was generally higher during May than during Google’s pre-COVID-19 winter baseline period (3 January to 6 February 2020). In addition, there was an overall upward trend in visits as May progressed[2]

Our parks represent a significant investment – but their benefits are wide ranging: for every £1 spent on parks in England, an estimated £7 in additional value is generated for the health and well-being of local people and the local environment. Parks provide natural benefits to the communities valued at £6.6bn a year, including £2.2bn of avoided health costs.

In line with this, the June 2020 report, from ADEPT “A blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level,” presents five immediate priorities for how the government can accelerate a green recovery from coronavirus whilst helping to set the foundations for longer-term solutions to the climate and ecological crises we face. One of which calls for the government to:

  1. Properly fund the parks, open spaces and the public rights of way that local authorities manage, recognising their vital importance for the ongoing wellbeing of communities.
  2. Create and restore nature-rich green spaces (including pocket parks) and accelerate tree planting, in the first instance through accelerating delivery of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund.

As we transition out of lockdown there is the opportunity for local authorities to combine the redesign of environmental services for the ‘new normal’ with a renewed emphasis on tackling the climate and ecological crisis.

As outlined in the ADEPT blueprint, local authorities– with their unique insight into their local communities, circumstances and environmental service delivery –  are well placed to play a major role in reaching the UK’s world-leading legislative target to reach net zero by 2050 – providing they receive a supportive policy framework, and a supportive framework of resourcing from Government to achieve this.

So, maintaining our green infrastructure is vital. Budgets are key, of course, and it is key that government funding for parks and green spaces is maintained and not cut. But moving forwards, a more focused and strategic approach to managing our parks and preserving our green spaces is also called for. As a first step, understanding the number, location and condition of green assets will be critically important to not only maintaining these assets efficiently, but also to effective planning for future generations. But we understand local authority parks departments don’t necessarily have the data or resources to collect that information on their own.

If you would like to delve into these topics in more detail, register for ‘Valuing Green Spaces’ a Yotta and ADEPT webinar on Friday 14th August at 10.30 am.

Steve Read, Director of Environment and Public Protection at West Sussex County Council and Chair of the ADEPT Environment Board, will discuss the role local authorities will take in the ‘green recovery’ and we will show how councils can leverage public engagement and other departments to get an accurate, complete view of their green assets.

To register for the webinar, please email [email protected]

by Mark Spence, Consultant, Yotta

[1] Google LLC “Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports”. https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/ Accessed: 15/06/20. Figures published in GOV.UK’s The People and Nature Survey for England: Monthly interim indicators for May 2020 (Experimental Statistics)

[2] The average percentage change for park mobility data for May is + 33.16 with a 7.20 standard error and a 95 percent confidence interval (18.46 – 47.86). All values rounded to 2 decimal places.