Barber on ... green infrastructure coming of age

We are in a real dilemma. Parks and green spaces are facing the biggest cuts in history but we have never known so much about the benefits our green spaces provide to society.

We may not be plagued with industrial accidents or the disease and degradation of Victorian times, but we are plagued by issues such as childhood obesity and stress in the workplace, which are placing an ever-increasing strain on our medical services.

A coalition pledge to grow the NHS budget slightly each year already looks meaningless against the exponential rise in demand, and the increasing cost of medical treatment. If dilemmas have horns, planners and managers are firmly impaled on them now. They have never heard so loud a rallying cry, but to what action?

We must play the health card, in the context of green infrastructure. There was a time when those using the term "green infrastructure" could easily be challenged to say what it meant beyond "green space". However, I have now seen the Liverpool green infrastructure strategy and think it is a masterpiece. It confirms the Mersey Forest Campaign and its Manchester University proteges as a green infrastructure think-tank par excellence. It could not be written as a green spaces strategy and contain the same breadth and depth of thinking and of action.

The strategy identifies interventions that can help address the environmental and socio-economic needs of the city. It notes that low levels of green infrastructure occur in areas with a higher incidence of heart disease and mental health problems. It concludes that the most effective actions will concentrate on making the best use of the existing green infrastructure resource through appropriate management.

It values this resource at £8bn. I do not know what the prospects are for an underfunded resource now needing investment to maintain its asset value. Implementing the green infrastructure strategy will be a severe test of political resolve in the light of today's cuts. But read it now and be inspired.


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