A new report ‘Making Up Ground: the role of green infrastructure in urban regeneration’, published by charity Groundwork, calls for nature to be at the heart of plans to grow the economy and regenerate ‘left behind’ areas.

The report argues that opportunities are being missed to deliver levelling up goals by investing in green infrastructure – parks, greenspaces and urban nature.

Key findings

  • Less than 5% of funding for regeneration through the government’s Levelling Up initiatives has been used to support green infrastructure
  • Less than a quarter of funding distributed to local authority areas through the Levelling Up Fund has gone to the half of areas with the worst access to green space, suggesting it is not reaching places where investment in green infrastructure is most needed

Benefits of investing of Green Infrastructure

The report highlights the wealth of evidence showing that investment in nature improves the quality of life for local people as well as the environment. The benefits of investing in green infrastructure include:

  • Boosting the economy through the creation of green jobs and increased footfall in and around green spaces, bringing additional revenue for local businesses and creating more attractive settings for investment.
  • Tackling climate change and protecting the environment with green infrastructure helping to mitigate the impact of extreme weather events, which are likely to become an increased risk and cost for homeowners and businesses
  • Improved health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, through regular access to the outdoors and through the reduction of air pollution.
  • Bringing communities and people together with community activities in shared green spaces promoting social cohesion and volunteering.

The Government appears to be holding firm on its pledge to level up the country, but there is significant concern about its commitment to protect nature as it seeks to deregulate and grow the economy. Prioritising green infrastructure in new developments and ensuring more people have access to the health and economic benefits green spaces bring will send a clear signal that growth needn’t cost the earth and that the needs of communities will be at the heart of decision-making.

Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive, Groundwork

Groundwork and Green Infrastructure

Groundwork has worked in communities for over forty years on projects that show then wide-ranging benefits of bringing people and the nature together.

Community hubs, such as The Green Patch in Kettering, provide an access to nature lifeline for those living in the nearby social housing estate. The space offers the opportunity for people to get involved in gardening, food growing, afterschool activities as well as opportunities for people to gain employment and training skills.

The Green Patch is a site that was involved in the success of Groundwork’s Natural Neighbourhoods programme – a two-year initiative that demonstrated how urban green spaces play an important role in addressing the climate and nature emergency, while showing how involving local people can help promote nature connectedness and improve people’s skills and employment prospects.

I like being outdoors, instead of a job where I’m behind a desk. It’s good to be out in the environment and learning new skills. It’s definitely something I want to continue to do. I really enjoy getting stuck into the work. Before I started here, I would have avoided situations with many people, but over the last three months I definitely feel more self-confident and more social. I feel like I’ve changed as a person.

Travis, 20, Kickstart trainee

The report builds upon concerns that Groundwork lobbies for surrounding the unfair equity of green space across the UK and the detrimental effect has on the economy, local landscapes and the overall health and wellbeing of people.

Evidence shows that almost three million people do not live within a 10-minute walk of a public green space. People in some regions are more likely to have adequate access to green space than others, with those in the South East and East of England best served, while London has the lowest amount of publicly accessible green space per person and people living in the Midlands and North of England are less likely to have green space within a 10-minute walk.

The report provides a timely piece of evidence to support Groundwork’s call to the government to ensure that environment and nature protections remain in place under the current EU law, including ‘Investment Zones’ across England, which would have fewer planning regulations including environmental protections.

Access to nature is highly unequal and the impacts of climate change are felt most by those who are already vulnerable. Rather than removing protections, we should be going further to ensure everyone can benefit from a better-quality environment and a greener economy. We want to see green infrastructure and low carbon jobs at the heart of new ‘investment zones’ and plans for growth focused on renewables, retrofitting and the circular economy.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s UK Chief Executive

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact media@groundwork.org.uk.

About Groundwork

Groundwork is a charity working locally and nationally to transform lives in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.

We’re passionate about creating a future where every neighbourhood is vibrant and green, every community is strong and able to shape its own destiny, and no one is held back by their background or circumstances. We help people gain confidence and skills, get into training and work, protect and improve green spaces, lead more active lives and overcome significant challenges such as poverty, isolation, low skills and poor health: www.groundwork.org.uk 

Further information

Read the Natural Neighbourhoods report: www.groundwork.org.uk/legacy-natural-neighbourhoods/