Green infrastructure targets needed to mitigate impact of heatwaves, says parliamentary committee

The Government should introduce an urban green infrastructure target as part of the 25 Year Environment Plan and in the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure towns and cities are adapted to more frequent heatwaves, a report published this week by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee has recommended.

Image: Stephanie Riddell / (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Stephanie Riddell / (CC BY 2.0)

The Met Office has projected that UK summer temperatures could regularly reach the current British record of 38.5°C by the 2040s. 

The Heatwaves: adapting to climate change report warns that such temperatures "will threaten the well-being of an increasing number of vulnerable people" due to higher incidence of cardiac, kidney and respiratory disease.

The committee's chair, former shadow Defra secretary Mary Creagh MP, said: "The Government must stop playing pass-the-parcel with local councils and the NHS and develop a strategy to protect our ageing population from this increasing risk," and called on the Government to "ensure local authorities and cities have green spaces and heat-resilient infrastructure".

Noting that "there is no explicit mention of the importance of shading streets and parks in the National Planning Policy Framework", the report urges a review of local authorities' "capacity to deliver climate change resilience", and calls for an urban green infrastructure target for cities.

"Green spaces have been proven to reduce the urban heat island effect, however urban green space has declined in England," the report says.

It calls on the Government to "aim to increase urban green space to 2001 levels, and higher if possible", while local planning authorities "should have to demonstrate their provision of shaded spaces in their local plans".

The Local Government Association confirmed to the committee that it "does not have a bespoke work programme on climate change adaptation", and the committee notes that funding for programmes to support such adaptation was withdrawn in 2015/16, "leading to the closure of numerous regional climate change partnerships".

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