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Communities need better designed, multi-functional green spaces

Posted on 23 May 2016

Groundwork has been invited to share ideas and contribute recommendations at the Royal Horticulture Society’s ‘Greening Grey Britain’ Front Garden Summit held at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Tuesday, 24 May 2016.

The summit, chaired by Alan Tichmarsh, will focus on the issue of people tarmacking over their front gardens to make way for parking, exacerbating the problem of a lack of greenspace across local communities. Leading figures across the gardening, urban planning and design sectors will all be putting forward their suggestions of innovative ways of addressing the issue and ensuring quality green spaces continues to be available in neighbourhoods across the UK. 

Groundwork has supported communities for 35 years to identify creative ways of improving their local environment and understand the challenges they face - particularly in urban, built up areas – where space can often be at a premium.  The charity will be suggesting a number of innovative, practical solutions that provides our communities with access to multi-functional spaces.   

Sarah Reece-Mills, Director of Partnerships & Programmes will be representing Groundwork at the summit and feels that some of the challenges communities may experience can be predicted and factored into the design process. 

“It’s perhaps inevitable that communities living in an area that genuinely lacks ‘space’ will want to use it to cater for practical needs, such as making sure they have somewhere safe to park their car. However this trend does have implications for the health and wellbeing of our communities and their local environment.    

“The key is to ensure our neighbourhoods are designed in way that promotes multi-functional spaces, so where communities aren’t forced to have to choose between parking spaces and community green spaces. 

The recommendations that Groundwork will put forward are:

  • An increased emphasis on creating shared community spaces that suits the needs of all local people.  For example, a pocket park in a pedestrian area or a greenspace that is accessible for both parking and recreation.
  • Installing permeable surfaces to allow water to soak through into the ground rather than piping the water away, therefore reducing the need for tarmac.  Groundwork has used this approach across London and has been a key factor in persevering greenspaces across London where the need for outdoor space is extremely high.
  • Designing multifunctional, local spaces in neighbourhoods that meet practical needs such as parking, but can also be used for gardening and for children to play. An example of this is ‘home zones’ in the Netherlands where spaces are designed with shared community space in mind to allow for both access to greenspace and practical necessities such as parking and driving.

“If we get this right the outcome will have major benefits for communities and the environment,” Sarah continues. “By ensuring that communities have attractive, multi-functional spaces for recreation, communities will also be able to reap the environmental benefits, including the reduction in localised flooding, tackling climate change and improving places for wildlife such a bees and birds.

“It’s vital that we recognise the challenges around modern living and adapt communities by putting the right solutions in place before it’s too late.”

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