Green space sector urged to embrace change

Focus on gloom and doom is holding back positive landscape action, conference delegates told.

Green-space professionals fear change and focus too heavily on gloom and doom to make the most of urban and rural landscapes, a conference heard last week.

Speakers at the Natural Connections conference - organised by private environmental consultancy Dialogue Matters - said green-space leaders had to achieve more with less cash so they had to think smarter and champion collaboration.

But consultant Richard Wakeford said: "As a nation we are better at being against things. A good example is the restructuring of planning policy guidance notes." The former Scottish government director-general for the environment and Countryside Agency chief said instead of coming up with sustainable land uses for housing, people focused only on what they did not want.

He cited Detroit locals who farmed on derelict land and guerrilla gardeners in Dalston as examples of those who were not afraid of change and innovation.

Dialogue Matters director Diana Pound added that when she asked a workshop of green-space and landscape professionals to list successful projects, their knee-jerk response was there were not enough. Yet a closer analysis revealed in under an hour that they had helped 72 projects to be successful.

Natural England social analyses specialist Judith Hanna said: "We need a joined-up approach - we must protect the environment for, not from, people."

Government View

"The natural environment white paper set out the Government's view of policy and Defra is trying to galvanise people and break down silos. We want to bring together politicians, agencies, businesses and conservation groups."

Ian Barrett, policy team leader for the landscape & outdoor programme, Defra

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