In a letter to the Defra Secretary, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee argues that green spaces should be a much higher priority, and calls for reforms and greater Government leadership to encourage more investment into and facilitation of green infrastructure.

The letter finds that despite the strong evidence linking urban green spaces to a whole host of environmental and health benefits, urban green spaces are “under serious threat”, and “urgent action is needed” to reverse this national decline.

The Committee believes that local authorities are best placed to make decisions about provision of green spaces, but highlights that there is no statutory duty for councils to provide green spaces. Facing financial constraints, councils are having to prioritise funding their statutory responsibilities, jeopardising the allocation of funds for green spaces.

The letter recognises that Government does sometimes provide one-off grants to local authorities for green spaces but finds that these are “too sporadic” and can often entail demanding and competitive application processes.

The EFRA Committee states that there is a strong case for a more robust funding programme and calls on the Government to consult with stakeholders on a new consistent funding programme supporting investment, maintenance costs and staff resourcing, to come into force in the 2026-27 financial year.

The Committee states that the Government “urgently needs to set out its plans to tackle recruitment concerns” facing local authorities, which can hamper the development of local strategies to create more green space.

The letter also recommends that the Government should, by 2025, work with industry and Natural England to create a regularly updated national repository of best practice and mapping tools to ensure that all local authorities can upskill their staff and invest in green spaces that serve all local communities equally.

The Committee’s inquiry finds that without a national strategy on the issue, green spaces are being deprioritised. While the policy area is currently spread across Government departments, MPs believe that there should be a central government organisation responsible for green infrastructure, or at least “a Minister for Parks and a cross government working group to fly the flag for urban green spaces”.

The letter finds that efforts to improve the issue are impeded by a lack of mandatory targets for urban green spaces and calls for the Government to work with key stakeholders to develop and publish a robust set of statutory targets for urban green spaces by 2025.

The letter also discusses the threats to green spaces arising from housing development, citing that the “drive for profit and the culture of the housebuilding sector incentivises high density builds and deprioritises engagement with local community needs; green spaces miss out as a result”.

The Committee urges the Department to consult on a clear set of responsibilities for developers and the construction industry, and calls on the Government to consider all tools at its disposal, to guide or require planners to prioritise green infrastructure.

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