GreenSpace East forum relaunch to tackle housing development

A regional GreenSpace forum covering the east of England has been relaunched in a bid to share ideas as the area undergoes major housing growth.

Although the GreenSpace East forum had been running for several years, it had suffered a "chequered history", according to its manager, parks consultant Bob Ivison.

He said the aim of the relaunch was to overcome the "unsustainable level of membership" and recognise the region's importance within the UK.

At its inaugural meeting, held at Hylands House in Chelmsford last week, new GreenSpace East chairman Paul Van Damme was introduced to more than 50 delegates from the area.

Van Damme, Chelmsford Borough Council parks and heritage services manager, will work closely with Ivison to expand the group.

"We have got a new way forward with a new chairman and we are now starting to look at how we can drive things on to make [the forum] work for the region," said Ivison.

"The region is important for the UK and there are significant growth areas, particularly in Cambridgeshire, around Stansted and the London corridors."

The Government had earmarked the eastern region — an area radiating from London to Suffolk and Norfolk — as one that could expect to see 500,000 homes built between 2001 and 2021.

The region's diversity — a mix of very rural areas and well-developed towns — meant that there are diverse issues to be tackled by the forum, added Ivison. But he explained that he wanted to expand the membership to cover not just local authorities but also private sector members working in the green space industry.

Representatives from Quadron Services, John O'Conner (Grounds Maintenance) and Serco attended the meeting.

"We need to engage more with the private sector because it has a significant part to play in the delivery of good-quality green space in the region," explained Ivison.

"We want to share best practice and I am sure that there are things the public sector can learn from the private sector."

Sub-groups of the forum will cover issues including providing better access to green spaces, benchmarking and training.

"We know training is a big issue in the industry," said Ivison. "There are skilled staff out there but they are getting old. We need to look at what we are doing to bring in younger people."

Given the planned increase in housing stock for the region, there will need to be a strong voice for the sector, he added. "It is important we all act as one so that green space in the region has a voice."

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