Protecting green spaces in high street regeneration

Following the Mayor of London’s Action for High Street report published in July, Deric Newman, sales manager at Civic Trees, discusses the importance of treescapes and green spaces in high street regeneration.

The Mayor of London’s Action for High Streets report sets out the importance of making London’s high streets even better places to visit, live and do business in. In the report, the Mayor makes a worthwhile case for investment into our high streets and announces that £9million will be made available in the autumn for town centre improvement grants.

High streets play a vital role in sustaining our economy and their regeneration could accommodate new homes and jobs. However, when policymakers are deciding how to invest in public resources, it’s important that they do not overlook the importance of green spaces in urban tree planting.

A study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology reports that living in an urban area with green spaces has a long-lasting, positive impact on people’s mental well-being and that access to good quality urban parks was beneficial to public health. Green spaces, treescapes and access to the natural environment can also encourage physical activity and active living.

The Mayor’s report highlights the importance of a welcoming and attractive high street, something that can be improved by treescapes, a well-maintained park, garden or green space. With this in mind, it’s important that investment is made not only into the development of treescapes or green spaces but also to their upkeep.

Crowded city centres and a resurgence of urban living make finding room for green spaces difficult and I would like to see more incentives for developing vacant lots or run down spaces into green areas. It’s pleasing to read The Greater London Authority environment team is coordinating the Mayor’s Street Tree Initiative and Pocket Parks Programme. The Pocket Parks Programme is investing £2million into helping to establish small areas of green space on high streets, and by March 2015 the Mayor’s Street Tree Initiative will have spent £5.7million planting at least 20,000 trees.

Civic Trees has also completed the planting of more than 350 trees for the Mayor of London’s RE:LEAF scheme in the London Borough of Southwark.

With public resources often scarce, it’s crucial that schemes like these continue and are not overlooked. Our high streets are changing and they must adapt to new pressures and shifting habits, but it’s important that this is not to the detriment of the green space.

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