Government advisors demand urgent shift in public investment to green England's cities
23 March 2009
Dominy Bird, 020 7070 6772, firstname.lastname@example.org
CABE and Natural England – the government’s leading advisors on urban design and the natural environment – today called for a major shift of public funding towards the greening of England’s towns and cities.
In advance of their ParkCity conference, CABE and Natural England are calling on local and central government to set new priorities for funding high-quality green infrastructure, highlighting the imbalance that exists between investment in green infrastructure and grey infrastructure. Green infrastructure investment would help tackle recession, address climate change and create a lasting environmental and economic legacy in England's urban areas.
The two organisations believe that towns and cities could be transformed if green infrastructure (such as open spaces, urban parks, street trees) received a fraction of the public investment made in other areas. Research reveals that the annual amount spent nationally on green spaces per resident is just £20.
Richard Simmons, CABE’s chief executive, said:
‘A switch of public spending from grey to green infrastructure would trigger an environmental revolution. At a time when investment in grey infrastructure, such as the new road building and road improvement programmes, runs into billions, investment in green infrastructure remains tiny. We have to redesign our cities in response to the imperative of climate change, and this means investment in hundreds of thousands of green roofs, millions more street trees, more parks, and new urban greenways.’
Helen Phillips, Natural England’s chief executive, said:
‘Sustained investment in greening England’s cities would bring a huge range of environmental, economic and health benefits - stimulating jobs, improving people’s health, creating greater urban resilience to climate change and reconnecting urban communities with the natural environment.’
Besides helping tackle climate change through absorbing carbon dioxide and tempering the urban heat island effect, green infrastructure can have an important role in reducing urban flooding, protecting wildlife and, by supporting cycling and walking, addressing the growing public health problems associated with obesity. A major investment programme in the greening of England's cities would sustain jobs and provide lasting support for the housing sector, creating desirable areas to live and work, stimulating local businesses and attracting inward investment into urban areas. As a first step, the government’s green stimulus package to support low carbon housing could be extended to incorporate green infrastructure as part of a wider move to target public expenditure on greening England’s cities.
CABE and Natural England's call for greater levels of public investment comes in advance of a major conference on green infrastructure. The two-day ParkCity conference aims to galvanise a public debate in England about creating places that co-exist with the natural environment, instead of developing in conflict with it.
The ParkCity conference – attended by Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning - brings together leading voices in community development, economic regeneration, public health and planning alongside international experts who will be making the case to increase investment in green infrastructure.
Speakers at ParkCity will include the leading green infrastructure expert Edward T McMahon; Majora Carter, pioneer in green-collar job training and founder of sustainable South Bronx; architect and designer William McDonough; and George Hargreaves, distinguished landscape architect responsible for the London 2012 park.
Notes to Editors
- For further information about ParkCity or to request a press pass please contact Dominy Bird on 020 7070 6772 or email email@example.com or Beth Rose at Natural England on 0300 060 1405 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ParkCity is organised by CABE and Natural England, the government’s advisors on urban design and the natural environment.
- The £10.2 billion budgeted for new road building (to 2014, for Highways Agency and local authority roads) would provide 1,000 new parks (initial capital cost £10 million each), at least two for each local authority in England.
- The budget for widening the M25 - £1.28 billion – would buy 3.2 million new street trees (initial capital cost £400 each), which could save 1.2 million tonnes of carbon.
- 1,000 new parks could save approximately 74,000 tonnes of carbon (based on a 10ha park with 200 trees). Trees for Cities have estimated that 2.67 trees should be planted for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted.
- The average spend on parks and green space per head is £19.97 (from a CABE poll of 39 local authority parks managers in February 2009).
- The need for free activity supported by high-quality green spaces and parks is greater in a recession. A recent report by the Blood Pressure Association Britain Under Pressure found that 21 per cent of people have cancelled or postponed their gym membership.
- Green infrastructure provides the environmental foundation that underpins the function, health, wealth and identity of our communities. Set within, between and beyond our urban areas, it provides a structured network of multi-functional open spaces and natural assets that include trees, parks, gardens, allotments, cemeteries, living roofs, woodlands, green corridors, rivers and waterways. Green infrastructure requires the deliberate integration of natural systems and processes in the strategic planning, design and management of our towns and cities. It can reduce carbon, generate renewable energy, raise air quality, enhance biodiversity, improve water management, increase local food production and promote healthy communities.
- CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, we encourage policymakers to create places that work for people. We help local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects. We show public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users. And we seek to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces. Advising, influencing and inspiring, we work to create well-designed, welcoming places. www.cabe.org.uk.
- Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. It conserves and enhances the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. www.naturalengland.org.uk