23rd June 2020
In recent weeks, attention has turned to how we best exit this crisis. Whether we are ‘levelling up’ or ‘building back better’, how we respond positively to the challenges that have presented themselves is critical if we are to build resilient places for the future.
The latest call, issued this week by a coalition of green groups – which includes the RSPB, National Parks England, WWF and The Wildlife Trusts – is for the Rishi Sunak and the government to “seize the day” and create a national nature service to restore wildlife and habitats in England.
In a letter to Sunak this week, the group set out how a new national nature service could “restore our land, coastlines, oceans and economy for a greener, more prosperous future. In doing so, we will create a more prosperous and resilient society and train up a new workforce to power a green, modern economy.” These proposals follow Sunak’s reported commitment to driving a ‘green industrial revolution’, but many environmental groups fear these commitments may overly focus on energy and transportation as opposed to the requirements for nature and biodiversity.
The coalition’s letter, calls for funding for some 330 projects around the country, which could enhance 200,000 hectares – an area 25% larger than Greater London – of diverse habitats and see the planting of over 4.5 million new trees. The proposals also suggest significant job creation through this approach and that through supporitng this initiaitive would be “helping the poorest, most nature-deprived communities first… helping improve people’s way of life at the same time as helping wildlife,”
Without the detail, it’s hard to judge the effectiveness of these proposals, but they certainly have some good objectives. I suppose my only thought is how much of this work would impact upon urban dwellers? This sounds like a relatively rural project, which is to be applauded, but is there not an equal challenge in the provision of greenspace within our cities? There are frightening statistics around the distance those living within some of our most deprived neighbourhoods have to travel, to access greenspace.
The Centric Lab have recently released an Urban Health Index which brings this to life across London specifically. Their map-based index brings together a wide variety of data sources to highlight those neighbourhoods with compounding environmental – noise, air and light pollution – and psychosocial stressors. The result map clearly demonstrates the huge health inequality that exists across London. Add to this a lack of greenspace access and the heath and wellbeing impacts we know this has, and we are building a clear picture of the areas most in need.
These are the places greenspace investment is needed surely if we are to really ‘level up’?
If we are to ‘build back better’ we need to be thinking carefully about how we can enhance greenspace provision and access to it. How can we best invest to provide accessible desirable greenspace for all aspects of our communities? How can we use greenspace to encourage active travel through green corridors? And how can we in turn reduce both environmental and phsycosocial stressors for some of our most deprived neighbourhoods across London UK wide towns and cities?
Author: Jenni Montgomery