CABE calls for green infrastructure backing

A call for central and local government to fully back a green infrastructure revolution through pushing skills, improved data and the establishment of a focused task force has gone out this week.

The campaign - launched by CABE on 11 November and supported by bodies including the Landscape Institute, Natural England and GreenSpace - urges government to shift the focus from grey to green infrastructure (GI).

Grey to Green follows the debate begun through the CABE and Natural England-organised Park City conference earlier this year.

According to CABE Space director Sarah Gaventa it is time for a "complete shift" to GI to ensure the UK can adapt to climate change and remain competitive worldwide.

The aim is to overcome the "chicken-and-egg" problem of skills and availability of jobs by addressing the whole spectrum of green-space need.

The organisation has been having meetings with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to recommend it leads on a jobs push as part of the national climate change adaptation strategy.

The Grey to Green report highlights there needs to be a shift in resources within government to support development of the sector, following a drive for "green" jobs that has overlooked green space roles and focused on issues such as energy.

CABE Space head of public space management and best practice Nicole Collomb explained: "We cannot tackle any one of these issues individually. If we are just looking at skills alone we would be trying to get people to train into a sector where there is a lack of suitable jobs. It is a chicken-and-egg situation."

As part of the report, CABE believes at least 550 new entrants onto Landscape Institute-accredited courses from 2010 are needed.

Garden History Society chairman Dominic Cole - one of 15 organisations to back the report - said: "We need to make sure the profile of horticulture generally is raised as a 21st-century profession."

The campaign also calls for a green infrastructure task force comprising national experts to set out environmental policy and delivery.

The backing of Tim Yeo, chairman of the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, is likely to have a significant impact on the reception of the campaign in government. On Tuesday (10 November), Yeo and Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, hosted a Parliamentary reception promoting Grey to Green.

Landscape designer Dan Pearson, whose work at the Maggie's Cancer Care Centre in west London helped it scoop this year's Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize, told HW it was critical for government to prioritise GI.

"It is in the zeitgeist now but it has not been put into practice properly," he explained. "But just a tiny percentage of difference in the amount of money spent could make an enormous difference."

The sustainability team at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) examined four English local authorities for the report and found green spending represented 0.1 per cent to 4.3 per cent of total expenditure.

The city council analysed spent £14 per head each year on "green", including parks and open spaces, sustainable development, river management and regeneration planning. It spent 24 times that on roads.

CABE chief executive Richard Simmons said: "This imbalance is nonsensical, given the fundamental role that GI plays in helping us address climate change, public health, biodiversity and community cohesion."

The body is also recommending central government coordinates a single, shared national information resource - a form of online atlas - to record in a consistent way the location, quantity, function, type and quality of green spaces.

Landscape Institute vice-president Brodie McAllister said the re-source would be particularly useful for raising the profile of GI and the landscape sector with the public.

"Nationally, it would be incredibly useful to map where the gaps are," he said. "We all know the road map of the UK, but not green infrastructure. That would be very powerful."


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