Campaigners seek to highlight potential of 'greening' stalled development sites

Green space experts are calling for development sites stalled as a result of the economic downturn to be temporarily "greened" to prevent a catastrophic slide into urban blight as the age of austerity dawns.

Taking examples such as Miami, which is offering to rent empty sites at $1 a year to create temporary parks, and San Francisco, where legislation is being drafted to get developers to occupy empty lots with initiatives such as tree farms, campaigners hope to highlight the potential for "greening" to unlock derelict sites' social, environmental and economic benefits.

A report into stalled spaces released this week by charity Greenspace Scotland said: "If left to fall into dereliction, these spaces will have a detrimental effect on local neighbourhoods, in terms of individual and community health and well-being and local economic activity as well as causing environmental problems."

The potential damage done to local areas includes:

- Attracting fly-tipping and exacerbating heat island effect.

- Depressing community aspirations and worsening fear of crime.

- Deterring new business and damaging investor confidence.

The obstacles to realising this potential, said the report's authors, include developers' fears that after releasing land for temporary community use they then become embroiled in legal disputes when the time comes to resume development, legal liabilities and the difficulty of securing funds without long-term lease agreements being in place.

In San Francisco, the legislation being drafted allows landowners to "lock in" their right to build if the land is used in ways that offer visual, environmental or cultural benefits until construction begins.

Greenspace Scotland now plans to support the development and evaluation of a series of demonstration sites, on which the issues relating to temporary spaces will be explored. to comment on this story.

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