Government's £5bn housebuilding pledge opportunity for green infrastructure

Government plans to stimulate house building in brownfield areas is an opportunity for cities to create a web of green space, according to the man in charge of a strategic review of Liverpool's parks.

Liverpool: board aims to join up pockets of green space. Image: Simon O’Brien
Liverpool: board aims to join up pockets of green space. Image: Simon O’Brien

The Liverpool’s Strategic Green & Open Spaces Review Board will outline a series of recommendations to Liverpool Mayor Jo Anderson on Thursday, on how the city can pay for its parks in the face of an economic forecast which shows the council will no longer be able to even pay for statutory services by 2018.

It has also been identifying spaces, usually brownfield land, as sites for new parks, with one, a mature birch woodland that has grown up alongside an abandoned railway line already identified and made into the city’s newest park, Melrose Meadows.

O’Brien found a serious lack of green space in the more deprived north and east of Liverpool but the city does have a surplus of naturally regenerated brownfield land due to economic decline in the 1970s.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid yesterday outlined a £3 billion Home Building Fund to help small family firms to build 25,000 new homes by 2020 and up to 225,000 in the longer term and a separate £2billion loan fund for 15,000 more new homes by 2020 on surplus public sector land, at the Conservative Party Conference, while Chancellor Philip Hammond also revealed planning rule changes to drive more building on brownfield sites.

Liverpool Strategic Green & Open Spaces Review Board chairman Simon O'Brien said rather than disrupt Liverpool’s plans, more building on brownfield land was an opportunity. He suggests identifying a web of brownfield sites across Liverpool and flagging up each one for new green space. Development funding would pay for a green corridor to be created in each one, which would link up green spaces across the city, allowing for wildlife and humans to move freely from one to the other.

The "green web" would also contribute environmentally by combating the urban heat island effect and flooding.  

"A lot of cities have these wastelands. If we want to make a 21st Century city we need to make these into green webs, both for wildlife and for people," he said.

"I have this huge argument with some people," said O’Brien, an environmental campaigner who is well-known for his acting work on Brookside. "Everyone has to consider that your house was once a field. 200 years ago Liverpool was a tiny little port.  I’m really pleased Liverpool is now thriving again, I say take up the opportunity to link up the amazing green spaces across the city. Give Liverpool a real feel of European city."

Landscape and planning experts have also called on the Government to give due consideration to green space during its drive to tackle the housing crisis. Landscape Institute president Merrick Denton-Thompson and interim chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Hugh Ellis both welcomed the announcements but argued for green space and decent landscape to be part of the plans.  

"Ministers are right to be demanding the construction of more homes and we welcome the regeneration of abandoned shopping centres and the development of brownfield land to achieve it," Merrick said

"One way of overcoming the automatic public response to object to building taking place next door, is to give a commitment to a high quality landscape in every new build development. No-one will object to that. Quality open space will contribute enormously to the health and wellbeing of both new neighbours and existing residents."

TCPA interim chief executive, Hugh Ellis, said the Government must recognise the role of place-making alongside housing delivery, which vibrant parks and local food sourcing an important part of the mix.




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