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Covid-19: Green space should be a priority in local plans

Words: Laura Edgar
Parks and green spaces / Shutterstock_592550057

The social distancing measures implemented to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) has highlighted the ‘critical importance’ of high-quality green spaces within housing developments, says Ecological Planning & Research Ltd (EPR).

The consultancy highlights that green and blue spaces have long been understood to improve human wellbeing – people with access to such amenities have lower levels of mental distress than those without, as was outlined by a Public Health England report in 2014. 

Therefore, there is a contrast between people’s experiences of lockdown, with some having access to green open spaces while others lack it, such as those living in dense urban areas or rural areas comprised of private farmland with no public access. 

For EPR, local plans should emphasise the provision of green and blue infrastructure, particularly in urban areas.

Ben Kite, managing director of EPR, said: “The limitations imposed by Covid-19 lockdown have brought to the forefront the need to be clever about improving access and creating pockets of green space to protect our wellbeing, and that of the wildlife we are welcoming back to our streets, parks, and gardens.

“Revising local plans to place greater emphasis on the provision of green and blue infrastructure, sustainable travel, and high-quality open spaces will not be easy – particularly in built-up high density areas where there is a real need to create green space – but this is no reason not to try. Allocations for new residential development should be seen not as being in competition with the need for green open space provision, but as an opportunity for such provision to be delivered.    

“The wheels have already been set in motion for the creation and improvement of green space in England with the biodiversity net gain requirements set out in the emerging environment bill. The bill will mandate for residential, commercial, and infrastructure developers to demonstrate that biodiversity has been enhanced through all new projects – but I believe that we can do more to build more resilient, greener communities by bringing green space to the top of the agenda in every new local plan.”

In March, EPR published a report in support of housebuilders incorporating good-quality biodiversity enhancements in their projects. It is the first in a series addressing biodiversity net gain requirements across all aspects of development in England.

Read more:

Builders are key to both housing and biodiversity crisis, says report

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