The Landscape Institute, has responded to the Communities and Local Government Committee’s report on their inquiry into public parks by calling on the government to review the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to ensure that our parks, green spaces and green infrastructure (GI) is appropriately planned, designed and managed to achieve multiple benefits for society.
GI is the network of natural and semi-natural features, green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages, towns and cities. It is a natural, essential infrastructure that is often more cost-effective, more resilient and more capable of meeting social, environmental and economic objectives than ‘grey’ built infrastructure.
While the Institute welcomes as a step in the right direction the Committee’s call for the parks minister to publish, in his response to the report, details of a new cross-departmental parks group membership, terms of reference and priorities, it does not go far enough. What is needed is a demonstration of national leadership and commitment at the highest level with the prime minister endorsing the parks minister with a corporate responsibility to connect across government on the issues of health, wellbeing, education and natural capital of which parks are key.
The Communities and Local Government Committee’s report also called for a government cross-departmental group to assess whether the planning guidance for local authorities on GI frameworks provides both for parks and for their role as a part of GI networks. But the Landscape Institute believes it is the NPPF which must be improved to help reimagine our green spaces and meet the needs of the future. We are not designing, managing and maintaining green spaces for optimum value to society. The Institute, in a joint letter to the Committee with the Town and Country Planning Association, has previously set out how this might be achieved.
Merrick Denton-Thompson, president of the Landscape Institute, says: “We need a demonstration of national leadership and commitment at the highest level. I would hope that the prime minister endorses the parks minister with a corporate responsibility to connect all the silos in government of health, wellbeing, education, natural capital – including biodiversity, climate change and economic performance that are all impacted by the outcomes of GI.
“GI as the network of natural systems within and between settlements, does not respect administrative boundaries so that should be reflected in both government and local planning authorities. Both need to consider how their plans for GI may impact on, and interact with, those of neighbouring authorities and across government.
“It is clear to us that the NPPF is inadequate in terms of a coherent message which supports parks as a key component of green infrastructure, the green lungs of our towns and cities. I would like to see it improved, not least by strengthening the Duty to Cooperate. Amending NPPF is unlikely to be an attractive proposition for Government but changes need to be made.”