We need to ensure our ‘Green Spaces’ are protected at all costs

I’ve recently read the agenda items that my local council have put on their website and I’m dismayed that the term ‘Open Spaces’ is being adopted instead of ‘Green Spaces.’

This for me is far more than simple semantics. I don’t doubt that our Borough does indeed have many Open Spaces, but the desire to treat these as synonymous with Green Spaces is an hugely cynical move. This I feel would make it far easier and clearly more palatable for residents when our cynical council sells off our Green Spaces and makes way for the latest housing development. When challenged, selling Open Spaces sounds far less damaging or controversial.

Of course I understand the need to balance the planning and housing needs of my area, but I’m hugely concerned that far too often our planning for houses and developments is pushed through to appease big business and make money, at the expense of the health and well-being of local residents. Opposition to such plans, even when 2,000 residents oppose something, is seemingly paid lip service.

Greater emphasis should be placed on social housing. Is 10% for each new development really sufficient? Why not 50%? If there really is a ‘housing crisis’, is this really going to be solved by making developers and builders richer? Our current model of planning is clearly unsustainable?

As part of our ongoing strategy and policy for building a fairer Britain we need to be much more radical in our approach and stricter on our commitment to plans that we have a negative impact on our long term health and well-being. Should building for sustainable homes therefore always be carbon neutral and therefore enshrined in law? The risk to these Green Spaces and therefore an ongoing legacy for our children/grandchildren is at stake.

There is also a growing national appetite for this, as the victory of Sarah Green in Chesham and Amersham shows. With the announcement today that the Scottish Greens will take on cabinet positions, are we at risk in England and Wales of being outdone on Green issues by the party so named? As liberal thinkers, should we be more vocal and oppositional at local , regional and even national level when we consider the value many of us have placed on Green Spaces during the pandemic? Should councillors be placing these issues to the very top of the agenda and protecting our Green Spaces more than ever before, or risk losing out on the Environment to the Greens for a generation?

A more sustained effort is needed otherwise we risk general irrelevance nationally. Whilst Johnson was roundly criticised for attending the G7 summit via a aeroplane earlier this year, we as Green Liberal Democrats should be able to capitalise on situations where our leaders fail to consider the basic health and well-being of the residents they purport to represent. Much like the Conservative run council of my constituency.

COP26 should be an opportunity for right meaning and thinking individuals to come together and tackle the ‘Climate Emergency’. I hope many of my fellow Liberals will be leading the charge?

* Aidan Jenkins is a SENCO (special needs co-ordinator) in a local high school and a party member in Newcastle-under-Lyme

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24 Comments

  • How can you build a house that is carbon neutral? Do you know how cement is manufactured? Do you know how clay bricks are manufactured? Both take enormous quantities of energy andthe former produces lots of CO2. Go ahead and enshrine carbon neutral in law and we shall never build another house.

  • Peter,

    Exactly why we need to find sustainable alternatives and offset the building trades carbon emissions for those projects proposed.

  • @Aidan – Good luck with that.
    By the way, cement is manufactured by roasting limestone in a rotary kiln at 1400 degrees Celsius. This decomposes the calcium carbonate to calcium oxide and carbon dioxide.

    The alternative is to make the houses out of wood. oh dear, more chopping down of trees.

    The IPCC scientific projections and attributions have already been proved wrong. I am pleased to say that the key greenhouse gas assumptions made by the IPCC are also wrong. This will become newsworthy in the next weeks and months. After that the carbon emission aspects of your concerns will become meaningless.

  • “The alternative is to make the houses out of wood. oh dear, more chopping down of trees.”

    Wood is a brilliant insulating material – just ask the Swedes, the Canadians and everybody else who constructs houses out of wood. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter.

    Trees are part of the short carbon cycle… as is meat, dairy (the methane cycle is also a short cycle – old methyl clathrate in permafrost excepted) and a whole host of other things. The real problem is the long carbon cycle – fossil energy that has been released into the atmosphere after laying dormant for millions of years.

    Unfortunately, many people don’t understand this and confuse the two cycles, and even if they did they still wouldn’t give up flying.

  • @Adam

    Thanks for your comments.
    Shows why education is so important.
    We need to find solutions to housing but building on much of our Greenfield sites is not the solution long term.

  • @Adam – I actually agree with you. my “Oh Dear” comment was, I admit, a swipe at the green community who do not seem to understand such things. You talk about the release of CO2 from fossil fuels and of course that is the current concern. The importance of CO2 is what is wrong as will be revealed in the coming months.

  • @ Aiden and Peter.

    Thanks guys.

    Having spent my entire adult life being concerned about environmental issues to the extent of never having flown since the age of 14 back in the ’70s (and it wasn’t my choice then) and having never held a driving licence (not easy in our society over the last 40 years) i can only hope that clarifications are going to get some airtime at last. Let’s just hope that the media are able to understand them – I have a very low opinion of science correspondants. Too much damage has been done. You can’t stop a flood by bailing out the floodwater and pouring it down the drain.

  • I don’t doubt that building a house involves emitting a lot of CO2, I that has to be put in the context that it’s very much a one-off thing. You build the house once, then you have a house (subject to occasional maintenance work) standing for potentially hundreds of years. The focus on CO2 reduction would be better spent looking at the activities that emit CO2 over and over again – flying, driving, power generation etc.

    Certainly, make sure that houses are built using the best low-carbon technology that is currently available and affordable, and make sure that they are designed to use as little energy as practicable for heating etc. And clearly – getting back to the article – we need planning rules that ensure houses are built in locations that preserve green spaces (There’s a lot that the Government could do there very quickly, as well as ensuring that all new houses are built in locations that discourage car use and allow easy walking/cycling/public transport access). But I wouldn’t want to go down the path of not building houses at all because of unavoidable one-off CO2 emissions. Too many people badly need houses to live in.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Aug '21 - 8:53am

    “and make sure that they are designed to use as little energy as practicable for heating etc.”
    Implying rigorous definition, implementation and enforcement of building regulations – the country doesn’t have a great track record on this. e.g. https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/property/persimmon-homes-problems-development-bristol-2611747

    Random unannounced inspections needed during building work, with hefty financial penalties for the builder if major defects found.

  • “Open Spaces” is the term generally used in UK legislation. Therefore, by aligning the terminology used by the Council with UK legislation, it may actually be increasing the protection of the spaces under that legislation. @Aidan – can you post the link to the agenda?

  • Thanks Simon. Indeed Open spaces seems to be the terminology but may in the short term mislead the public to allow building on green spaces. I feel this is a cynical move by the govt to have less opposition to green belt planning. Link from my council is below.
    https://moderngov.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=119&MId=3819&Ver=4

  • Simon R 27th Aug ’21 – 7:53am…..I don’t doubt that building a house involves emitting a lot of CO2, I that has to be put in the context that it’s very much a one-off thing. You build the house once, then you have a house (subject to occasional maintenance work) standing for potentially hundreds of years………

    Exactly! Add to that the fact that, using the latest technology, such houses can be made far more ‘energy efficient” than older properties so their energy ‘footprint’ is more environmentally friendly..
    As an aside, Whilst watching yesterday’s news my wife commented on the damaging effect of ‘air shows’ ..I ‘googled’ and was amazed by the number still happening; it seems, that from spring to autumn, they are an almost daily occurrence..

  • Somakosha – Traditional Japanese House, Timber Frame Raising

    I enjoyed watching this group making the process of wooden house building rewarding – although the Japanese do seem to have a highly developed sense of community.

  • Laurence Cox 27th Aug '21 - 11:37am

    In London we have the designation Metropolitan Open Land, which has the same protections as Metropolitan Green Belt. It has always seemed strange to me that this is is not a countrywide approach.

  • Peter Hirst 27th Aug '21 - 2:36pm

    These terms need defining. When is an open space not a green space? Open spaces could include car parks, most others are to some extent green. I suggest a green space should be half covered by trees, wild flower meadows or perhaps grass. All grass spaces are not really green in the widerness sense.

  • There needs to be joined up thinking in terms of policy on this issue, and policy on immigration/asylum.

  • Phil Beesley 27th Aug '21 - 5:36pm

    Laurence Cox: “In London we have the designation Metropolitan Open Land, which has the same protections as Metropolitan Green Belt. It has always seemed strange to me that this is is not a countrywide approach.”

    It is useful to remind ourselves occasionally that the purpose of Green Belts is to prevent urban sprawl by placing rings or wedges around developed areas. They are about preventing contiguous development rather than the type of development, much of which continues inside Green Belt areas. Green Belts are not necessarily pretty or hosts to interesting wildlife.

    Peter Hirst: “These terms need defining. When is an open space not a green space?”

    Definitions are very difficult. Urban areas need wild space which may be hard to fit under green space definitions — places with greenery which connect two bigger areas, for example. In cities, we assume that derelict spaces, human free, are wildlife free. One metre borders around car parks tend to become rat colonies; if you made them a smidge wider, it would be easier for foxes to pay a visit.

    One definition of open space is somewhere that you can kick a football around. So not a car park or a coppice, and not an uncut meadow.

  • Phil Beesley 27th Aug '21 - 6:31pm

    Richard S: “There needs to be joined up thinking in terms of policy on this issue…”

    ‘Joined up thinking’ belongs in the same box as ‘thorough policy review’, in that if terms of reference include the expression it has already been squeezed out.

    If you are serious about investigating a complex question, you don’t want people who join stuff up.

  • David Garlick 27th Aug '21 - 8:34pm

    As I am sure you are all aware the recent planning changes allow open (or green) spaces to be monitored for human activity. If that falls below a certain threshold the land can be recassified as ‘building land’.
    The needs of humans are many but the needs of the biodiverse land we live in and share with the other residents (bugs and plants etc) do not seem to count for this Government.
    This is a seat winnning issue which we must use to both win seats and use the power that gives us to reverse the legislation.
    Homes we do indeed need and aplenty but houses? Many of us think that good qualty flats built to the highest environmental stands are the way to go. They leave space for green areas, lend themselves to car free estates with good public transport . Houses could be built from the environmentally freindly materials that are required to built to a very very low carbon footprint. These materials exist but the industry does not have the skills to use them and their production levels are small and will need to be scaled up. New materials are coming onto the market all the time. Be impatient, demand better and reject the status quo. House builders will not change unless they are forced to. They are making so much money by not changing it is painful to watch!

  • Brad Barrows 28th Aug '21 - 10:14am

    Protecting green spaces “at all costs” – I get the point but the language used is over the top. I doubt the author is suggesting armed resistance and a willingness to fight to the last person standing. Hyperbole merely makes an argument look silly.

  • John Roffey 27th Aug ’21 – 11:32am:
    Somakosha – Traditional Japanese House, Timber Frame Raising

    Good luck with trying to get a UK mortgage on that…

    ‘Why Japan is Crazy About Housing’:
    https://www.archdaily.com/450212/why-japan-is-crazy-about-housing

    Houses in Japan rapidly depreciate like consumer durable goods – cars, fridges, golf clubs, etc. After 15 years, a home typically loses all value and is demolished on average just 30 years after being built. According to a paper by the Nomura Research Institute, this is a major ‘obstacle to affluence’ for Japanese families. Collectively, the write-off equates to an annual loss of 4% of Japan’s total GDP, not to mention mountains of construction waste.

    And so, despite a shrinking population, house building remains steady. 87% of Japan’s home sales are new homes (compared with only 11-34% in Western countries). This puts the total number of new houses built in Japan on par with the US, despite having only a third of the population. This begs the question: why don’t the Japanese value their old homes?

  • Helen Dudden 30th Aug '21 - 8:47pm

    Knocking down and rebuilding, is not a green issue either.
    Second homes, and party houses left empty for weeks.
    Student Housing, if there is a decline they would probably be useless. I also believe there should be a contribution to things like council tax.
    At the rate we are going, there will be no green spaces left and green field sites in short supply.
    Capitalism is not a situation of reasoning.

  • Kyle Harrison 4th Sep '21 - 9:07am

    The Lib Dems are becoming the most nimby party in Britain. It’s inevitable with their political strategy of trying to convert middle class, suburban type voters from Tory voters to Lib Dems that they will keep making noise about the evil property developers and will stand up constantly against building new developments in all sorts of places. The Tory govt meanwhile actually try to liberalise the planning system and Labour, although not great nationally on house building, Labour councils are actually trying to get housing built i.e. Enfield Labour council that is trying to build new houses on the green belt. To be fair, the Tories aren’t great locally on house building but better nationally, almost the reverse of Labour.

  • Nonconformistradical 4th Sep '21 - 9:50am

    @Kyle Harrison
    In case you hadn’t noticed many places in Britain (and other parts of the planet) are becoming more vulnerable to flash flooding following very heavy rainstorms (how often does it just drizzle these days… – often we seem to get either no rain at all or a major cloudburst).

    The greater the area which is hard-surfaced as a result of building the more difficult it becomes to disperse rainwater resulting from very heavy rainstorms.

    As well as such flash flooding problems there are many lowland areas which are either marshland already or at risk of becoming more marshland due to rising sea levels (which may result in the water table rising).

    Are you suggesting it would be sensible to build mass housing in such areas?

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