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Communities get power to protect green spaces

People are to be given the ability to protect environmentally and locally important special green spaces, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

People are to be given the ability to protect environmentally and locally important special green spaces, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced today.

The Natural Environment White Paper, published today, includes proposals to give communities new powers to designate protected green areas as part of local neighbourhood plans.

Local communities will be able to earmark for special consideration local ‘green space’ land - whether its value is in its natural beauty, its historic resonances, its recreational value, its tranquillity or its importance as wildlife habitat.

The recent National Ecosystem Assessment concluded that the health benefits of living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year. Urban green spaces can affect house values, mental wellbeing, air and water quality, carbon absorption and can provide natural flood defences and drainage. More information on the UK National Ecosystem Assessment can be found here (external link).

Two of the main ambitions of the planning system are protecting the natural environment and promoting sustainable growth. Ministers believe these are mutually compatible aims and they will form the basis of Government planning policy reforms. Protected sites should complement and not undermine investment in homes, jobs and other essential services.

A new National Planning Policy Framework that will consolidate nearly 900,000 words of unwieldy national planning policies into one concise, easy to use document setting out the Government’s key economic, social and environmental objectives will be published shortly.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Green spaces are incredibly important to local life which is why this government is committed to protecting them. These are special areas that invigorate communities like local beauty spots, wildlife habitats or even local playing fields so important for healthy activities.

Promoting economic growth and protecting our natural environment are the two ambitions of our planning reforms. By giving local people greater control over much loved green spaces we are placing the strongest emphasis on the protection of the environment and local communities’ interests. We are also making sure that what we decide today leaves a positive and sustainable legacy for future generations.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

Giving communities the power to protect green spaces in towns and cities important to their local environment will benefit the wellbeing of people and wildlife. The natural environment matters to all of us, we all have an interest in protecting it and making it better. Working together we can be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

I hope that the Government’s White Paper will inspire more people to enjoy nature from an early age and pass that passion for the environment down through the generations. That would be a legacy well worth leaving.

Neighbourhood planning is a key reform that will give local people a real voice in deciding the look and feel of development in their area; from determining the parks, playing fields and beauty spots as well as the location of shops, offices and schools or setting green standards of design for new housing.

Publishing details of the green space designation ahead of the formal consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework gives communities the certainty that the planning system will continue to protect the natural environment in their area. The power would be introduced by April 2012.

Notes to editors

  1. The Natural Environment White Paper states:

We will consult later this year on proposals for a new Green Areas Designation that will give local people an opportunity to protect green spaces that have significant importance to their local communities and aim to introduce the Designation by April 2012. We propose that green spaces should be identified in neighbourhood plans and local plans which complement and do not undermine investment in homes, jobs and other essential services. Given the importance of green spaces to the health and happiness of local communities the Government considers the new designation should offer suitably strong protection to localised areas that are demonstrably special and will consult on that basis.

  1. The Communities Secretary is overseeing a programme of work announced at the Budget to unblock the planning system, boost house building and attract new investment into the market, maintain environmental and countryside protections. The reforms will put local councils, communities and local firms in the lead when it comes to delivering growth.

  2. This programme includes a commitment to introduce a strong presumption in favour of sustainable development in the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework, which will expect local planning authorities to plan positively for new development; to deal promptly and favourably with applications that comply with up-to-date plans and national planning policies; and wherever possible to approve applications where plans are absent, out of date, silent or indeterminate.


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Published 7 June 2011