Green Infrastructure Key to Healthier Cities, UK Government told

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The potential for Green Infrastructure to have a positive impact on public health has been explored in a paper published by the UK Government Office for Science. Incorporating Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) is one of the key suggestions identified by Dr Val Kirby and Stephen Russell of the Landscape Institute.

However, the UK planning system is missing opportunities to benefit from the latest advances in Green Infrastructure technology and design, the authors argue. Green Infrastructure, say the authors, is still seen as something “nice to have” – rather than essential.

The report is part of the Foresight Future of Cities Project a UK Government initiative to look at the issues facing cities over the next fifty years. Entitled “Cities, Green Infrastructure and Health”, it makes a case for the potential benefits of environmentally-conscious planning in terms of health, economics and social equality.

The authors argue, “Green Infrastructure networks that are integrated within and between urban areas will be accessible to, and will therefore benefit, large populations.”

Improving the quality of water, air and soil is top of the authors’ Principles For Healthy Places and the report underlines the contribution that well-designed and well-maintained SuDS can make.  If city planners invest in open spaces, plant trees, develop community gardens and are committed to implementing sustainable drainage systems, a healthier population will result.

However the report says most planning authorities do not have Green Infrastructure policies in place. Cuts in public spending have also made it hard to maintain existing Green Infrastructure assets and recent changes in planning laws have not given enough priority to the importance of integrating GI principles.

“Many local authorities still have no identifiable policies or documents which refer to GI and many appear not to be working strategically with neighbouring authorities. Others use the term GI to mean green space, which ignores other types or functions of GI and may result in missed opportunities,” says the report.

However investing in green infrastructure in the short term could have great long-term benefits.

“We believe an exciting opportunity exists to significantly improve health and wellbeing by integrating nature into the fabric of our towns and cities. In doing so, not only will urban populations be healthier, but a huge number of other benefits will be gained for society, the economy and the environment.”

To read the report in full, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-of-cities-green-infrastructure-and-health

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