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Planning system key to delivering greener, better places

Words: Laura Edgar

"Better partnerships and evidence" are the key to deriving greater benefits from green places, Natural England said yesterday.

At a conference organised by the Green Infrastructure Partnership, speakers from the world of planning, environment and local government met to assess the evidence about the value of green infrastructure and how it can be used to influence planning decisions.

It has been indicated in recent research that areas with high quality green infrastructure, such as parks and street trees, are better for people’s physical and mental health. The area is also less likely to flood and will attract more investment.

However, the seminar discussed how green infrastructure is not considered when planning decisions are made and how the English planning system can be used to support the creative delivery of green infrastructure in the long term. The conference also looked at what evidence and partnerships are needed for this to happen. 

Martin Moss, senior adviser on green infrastructure at Natural England who spoke at the seminar, said: “From combating air pollution and climate change to improving people’s mental and physical health, green infrastructure provides a whole range of beneficial services. We need a more creative approach for planning green infrastructure in the long term, making better use of partnerships and evidence, if we are to continue to benefit from these services. Yesterday’s event is an important part of how we can achieve this.”

With the challenge of developing a resilient - and healthy - natural environment, green infrastructure is becoming an essential element of infrastructure planning for cities and towns, as well as the wider landscape.

Julia Thrift, organiser of the Green Infrastructure Partnership and head of events at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) explained that the evidence was overwhelming to suggest that green infrastructure is as important to the success of towns and cities as transport and communications. Thrift added: “We need to communicate this evidence better in the planning system so that the people who make the decisions understand that high quality green infrastructure is a vital component of a thriving place, not a ‘nice to have’ optional extra.”