‘Don't ignore the value of urban green space’, Ross Cameron urges MPs and peers

Urban green space has the potential to improve lives and benefit the economy, while helping the government deliver on key policy areas, according to Dr Ross Cameron.

Palace of Westminster

Ross, who is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape, was one of six witnesses who appeared before the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group on Tuesday 15 May to discuss innovation and research needs relating to the landscape horticulture sector.

Dr Cameron argued that a dynamic, innovative and resilient UK horticultural sector will help the government deliver on areas including health, the environment, energy, crime and education, particularly within cities where vibrant, attractive gardens and green landscapes are fundamental to improving their function and liveability.

The members present were ‘blown away’ by some of the data presented and urged the horticultural and landscape sector to lobby more vociferously about the contribution of green space in meeting wider societal needs.

Dr Ross Cameron

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape

Ross said: “This was a really positive meeting and it was encouraging to see parliament listening to and appreciating the value of quality green spaces.

"We discussed issues such as the need for gardens to help develop a fit and active lifestyle (the ‘gym’ at the back door), how parks and heritage gardens can be significant drivers for the tourist pound (1/3 of overseas visitors to the UK will visit an iconic green space during their stay, worth about £7 billion in revenue), and the role of street trees, gardens and parks in alleviating the risk of urban flooding.”

“The members present were ‘blown away’ by some of the data presented and urged the horticultural and landscape sector to lobby more vociferously about the contribution of green space in meeting wider societal needs.”

According to Dr Cameron, there is now strong compelling evidence that quality green spaces and activities within them:

  • Improves citizens’ mental health by reducing stress and providing ‘restorative’ environments

  • Encourages physical activity, helping address key health problems associated with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle

  • Lowers crime rates and reduces anti-social behaviour - due to the stress-reducing effects of proximity to green space

  • Increases human attention span with knock on positive effects for school pupils learning capacity and employees’ productivity/creativity

  • Removes particulate matter linked to pulmonary diseases

  • Can help mitigate noise pollution

  • Improves social capital – better social integration for marginalised groups and improved neighbourliness

  • Can enhance knowledge/engagement with respect to diet and healthy eating habits

  • Reduces the energy consumption of buildings by up to 30%, for example through careful landscape design using hedges, tree shelter belts, green walls and roofs

  • Provides city and individual building cooling and can negate the requirements for artificial air conditioning in the UK

  • Traps and retains excessive rainfall – reducing the incidence of urban flooding

  • Promotes opportunities for wildlife and enhances urban biodiversity

  • Stimulates economic opportunities including greater tourism potential, enhanced property values, improved footfall for retail outlets and new business opportunities

The All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group (APPGHG) is a cross-party group of MPs and Peers who champion the UK’s gardening and horticulture sector in Parliament. Ross appeared at the second of three sessions organised to examine the future of horticulture post-Brexit.

Other witnesses included academics specialising in horticulture medicine, green space, science, robotics and plant health, as well as RHS Director of Science Professor Alastair Griffiths and industry representative Charles Carr of Hillier Nurseries.

Responding to the panel, Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope suggested a House of Lords Select Committee for Land Use should be set up to better integrate (and value) green space within the Planning System. This itself would drive innovation within the sector.

A report summarising the session will be passed to DEFRA and other relevant government departments.

Read the evidence on Functional Horticulture and the Value of Urban Green Space (PDF, 1.1MB)

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