Partners seek clarity over urban green infrastructure body's remit and funding

Defra's proposals for promoting rooftop and community gardens raise questions over ministerial leadership and resources.

The Green Infrastructure Partnership aims to help communities in urban areas - image: Frosts Landscape Construction
The Green Infrastructure Partnership aims to help communities in urban areas - image: Frosts Landscape Construction

Plans for the Green Infrastructure Partnership took shape last week, but green-space professionals said they remain confused about its role and funding.

The partnership - a keystone of the natural environment white paper - aims to help communities in urban areas create rooftop swards, community gardens and living walls.

It draws together groups such as GreenSpace, Natural England, the Greater London Authority (GLA), Capel Manor College, the Landscape Institute, the Construction Industry Research & Information Association and food organisation Sustain.

But attendees at the first meeting voiced concern about the group's remit. Some were also sceptical of its power, given there is no Government funding.

Defra policy adviser Ed Dyson said: "Time, commitment and enthusiasm - those are the resources. The fact that people have shown a willingness to participate is a good sign. The commitment is there to make something happen."

GLA urban greening team leader Peter Massini said: "There doesn't seem to be much leadership. Green infrastructure can get lost in vague words and ideas rather than identifying specific outcomes. But (environment minister Richard) Benyon said encouraging things."

Capel Manor chief executive Steve Dowbiggin said a cross-Government minister was needed as leader because at present policy tended to go from ministry to ministry.

On funding, Landscape Institute policy director Paul Lincoln said issues could be overcome by building multifunctional spaces such as playing fields that manage storm water to deliver "more for the same budget".

Defra landscape strategy and policy head Ian Barratt said: "Partners are whoever wants to work with us on research and promoting green infrastructure. It will initially run for up to two years."

Green Infrastructure Partnership Aims

- See how existing green infrastructure in England meets communities' needs.

- Investigate the scope for improvements and look at barriers to change.

- See how locals and planners can be helped to create new green infrastructure.

- Show the social, economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure

- Help people to tot up the costs and benefits of investing.

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