Environmental reviews will help parks meet sustainable targets

Parks managers need to develop more systematic environmental reviews to ensure that green spaces are seen as an essential element of meeting sustainability targets.

According to consultant Paul Hyde, many local authorities are carrying out environmental work on an ad hoc basis or covering a confined range of issues.

"There is an emphasis on issues such as avoiding peat or minimising pesticides," explained Hyde, during GreenSpace's conference on sustainability last week.

"These issues are important but you can be doing so much more. That means making environmental practices more systematic and comprehensive and articulating what you are doing."

The best way to improve sustainability in parks is to conduct an environmental review, Hyde told more than 80 delegates at the Sustainable Parks: Sustainable Futures conference in Liverpool on 2 March. "It helps define where you are now," he explained. "Then it is possible to build environmental issues into parks management plans."

The "essential part" of a review is to examine all the inputs and outputs of a green space, added Hyde.These include the materials used, chemicals, water, energy, flora and fauna and even the carrying capacity of the park, or number of visitors.

"It might mean looking at procurement, for example are the benches made from FSC wood?"

He added: "Are waste bins segregated for recycling? And can sustainability be built into landscape design and new buildings or refurbishments? Don't forget the social value of parks in terms of sustainability."

CABE Space adviser Nicola Mathers agreed that involving local people could be beneficial.

She said: "We know if local people get involved it helps spaces become more sustainable. We can't think about environmental sustainability in isolation from social and financial sustainability and local groups can bring in income and access money that local authorities cannot."

Mathers highlighted cases where community involvement had been successful, including the River Quaggy flood alleviation project in south London and Augustenborg in Malmo, Sweden.

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