Help people, help nature – fairly

The proposed Community Areas of Landscape Value (CALV) will be part of a national network – a grid – of green spaces that are accessible to us all wherever we live. People will not have to travel to find green spaces, the green spaces are already amongst us where we live. CALV will be areas that complement the existing ‘family’ of designated green spaces. They will inevitably have considerably lower levels of legal protection than the leaders such as National Parks and AONBs but their importance should not be seen as diminished. In order to make CALV fulfil their purpose of being available for everyone they will need some security through designation. This must be organised at grass-roots level. It is for communities to identify and nominate the green and grassy spaces that matter to them, rather than potential places to be judged or allocated at a national level. Neighbourhood Planning has successfully shown how this can be done, and the same framework and process could be extended to designating CALV. Once the CALV are identified by the local community, they will then be managed by local people drawing on the knowledgeable, often passionate, expertise that comes from people who feel they are part of a place. This concept is not new. To quote Baba Dioum, 1968: In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught. The pandemic has shone a light on the natural assets that are an essential part of people’s lives – the places where they go to sit in the sun, walk the dog or build a snowman. These are urban as well as rural, and encompass, for example, a canalside, a redundant cemetery, moorland or wetlands. It will not be difficult to involve communities in creating and managing CALV. It will build on the learning of the success of over 9000 community businesses, approximately 100,000 social enterprise companies and the growing number of Community Land Trusts which are all legally structured, supported by professionals working for organisations like Co-ops UK, Locality, Plunkett, Community Land Trusts, many supported by Power to Change. The monolith of central government can be slow to react to the needs of individual communities. But in order to make CALV work the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) must provide sufficient national oversight to allow communities to move forward and be more self-sufficient. The benefits of CALV are considerable – Health: The evidence base linking health and greenspace is compelling, and supports innovative thinking about its potential to help achieve local priorities. Already there are successful health interventions, such as green social prescribing initiatives where people are helped to begin using greenspace and at the same time get to know other people in their community. Education: When children are engaging with the natural environment, both formally and informally, they develop specific knowledge. They show appreciation and concern for the natural environment when they explore the relationships with other living and non-living things, and develop an awareness of the impact that human activity has on the environment. Resilience of communities: Communities will be brought together in the care of a protected landscape. They will understand how shared actions and a connected management of resources can develop resilience. For example to help protect homes with water management, improve river quality, link people with local food producers and suppliers or find opportunities for community green energy schemes. Climate Change: Biodiversity loss and climate change present significant risks to everyone’s well-being and way of life. The creation of nature-rich greenspace and the restoration of habitats will help mitigate and provide adaptation to the environmental and economic impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Each CALV may be relatively small, but their combined acreage across the country will be significant. The enterprise and capabilities of local people working in their communities will make a considerable difference – for example: • Urban greening – from planting street trees to the creation of pocket parks and vertical gardens on buildings – can provide habitats for wildlife at the same time as keeping our cities cool. By linking these areas we create valuable wildlife corridors. CALV could extend along rivers and canals in towns to link the urban with the rural. • Restoring upland habitats such as peat bog and woodland removes carbon from the atmosphere, protects soils, helps replenish aquifers and can reduce the severity of flooding thus protecting communities and businesses. • Restoring nature in the countryside can improve food security by reversing the losses of bees and other pollinators. New nature-rich areas are attractive to people as well! • Accessible, protected Community landscapes will encourage more people to walk and cycle around these areas thus reducing the use and reliance of the car to access green spaces. Economy: Local Authorities have shrinking budgets and are finding it harder to manage even the current protected greenspace; another solution has to be found. Communities are resourceful and here is an opportunity for them. Investing in nature generates future employment opportunities and supports economic productivity in the tourism and related environmental goods and services sectors The opportunities post COVID 19 CALV will become a vital part of our national natural asset. They will connect more people more closely with nature – one of the aims of the recent Planning White Paper. They will increase the natural capital of the places where we live and help us achieve Climate Change targets. But above all there is a fundamental moral imperative that drives this initiative. National Parks and AONBs emerged after WWII when the country ‘built back better’. The traumatic year, or more, of COVID 19 has ruthlessly exposed the inequalities in our society. By creating CALV we have an opportunity to help people, help nature – and to do it fairly.

 

 

1209-11

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