In this month’s blog, ADEPT Policy Officer David Dale talks about the urban greening workshop from the Autumn Conference.
We were pleased to be joined in Nottingham by Ellie Robinson of the National Trust and Clare Warburton of Natural England who contributed to the workshop on urban greening.
The National Trust was an early pioneer of urban greening, and its Future Parks Accelerator (FPA) programme – a collaboration between the National Lottery Heritage Fund, NT and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – is a response to continued decline in public funding for local parks and green spaces. Working with local authorities and their partners from places across the nation, the FPA programme is designed to protect and develop natural resources in urban areas, and make sure quality green space is accessible for everyone, now and into the future.
The workshop was introduced and chaired by Ian Richardson of Costain, and included contributions from two of the FPA places – Camden and Plymouth.
The workshop also gave the NT the opportunity to mention its recently published Manifesto asks with three key calls that closely align with ADEPT’s policy priorities:
- Progress towards the renewal of nature must be accelerated, with adequately resourced watchdogs with more teeth capable of tackling both sewage and agricultural pollution, and a transition to nature friendly farming.
- Government should recognise the impact of climate change on the Nation’s heritage, landscapes and natural environment. The Trust wants to see policy changes and a green workforce to help reduce the emissions from our historic buildings, protecting community heritage.
- Everyone should be able to benefit from high quality nature and heritage where they live, so we want a legally binding target that everyone should be able to access green space within a 15-minute walk from their home.
To accelerate urban greening, Philip Robinson from Plymouth said that councils need to think big and be ready to accept some risks. They need the right people to innovate and create, and they need the resolve to win over Councillors to provide local leadership. Andrew Hinchley from Camden talked about the importance of the health benefits that access to parks and green spaces bring – these places should be seen as essential health assets. Highways assets should also be seen as part of the approach – turning grey into green.
Natural England (NE) emphasised the multiple benefits of green infrastructure, identifying the preventative gains and other costs avoided, and how green infrastructure can deliver for economic growth, climate change and health and wellbeing. The Natural England Green Infrastructure Framework is broader than the Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) that councils are now developing. The Framework has standards and factors that are particularly useful in driving the uplift of greening in urban areas when initiatives such as biodiversity net gain might not have such an impact. NE also emphasised the importance of natural capital accounting and the need to capture consistently the economic, social and wider environmental benefits of investment in nature recovery.
For me, this was one of the main outcomes of the discussion – local authorities need to be smarter about using health and natural capital accounting in business cases for projects and investment. We need clear and consistent tools to do this. Some tools are being developed such as government’s Greenkeeper tool developed by Innovate UK for DLUHC (subject to open licensing). And NE have developed the Environmental Benefits from Nature tool, which captures the losses and gains in 18 different services – such as flood regulation, carbon storage, water and air quality - from land use change. It will be updated next Spring.
Both the NT and NE are planning to work together in partnership to build on the learning from the FPA and the GI Framework, and are wanting to engage with local government in the Spring to ask what other forms of support and advice are needed to deliver urban greening at scale.
We look forward to working with them on this in the future.