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MPs to explore how green spaces in built-up areas can help to meet the environmental challenges of urban living

19 September 2023

The number of people who live in urban areas in the UK is expected to increase over the next decade, while the total provision of green spaces is expected to decline substantially, as infrastructure increases to meet the needs of a growing population. So, how equally is access to urban green spaces distributed across all sectors of society? That’s one of the questions which MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee will be setting out to answer as part of their new inquiry launching today.  

The inquiry will explore how green spaces in built-up areas can help meet the environmental and associated health challenges of urban living. The Government has estimated that parks and green spaces in England alone deliver an estimated £6.6 billion of climate change, environmental and health benefits every year. With the important environmental role green spaces play, any loss of these spaces will come at an environmental and social cost.  

The EFRA Committee's inquiry will focus on the ecological, environmental and human benefits of green space, and will explore the most effective solutions to making cities greener and nature rich.    

During this inquiry, MPs will probe what environmental and wider challenges urban areas are facing and consider how green spaces address these challenges.   

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions through the inquiry website addressing any or all of the issues raised in the following terms of reference, by Friday 20 October 2023.

  1. How successfully are the Government and Local Authorities protecting and increasing urban green spaces, and what trends can be seen in the extent and quality of those spaces?  
  2. What environmental challenges are urban areas facing, and how could wider access and inclusion to green spaces (including dog-friendly spaces) address these challenges? Areas to consider but not limited to:

a. Increased temperatures and the ‘urban heat island’ effect
b. Flooding risks and water quality in urban watercourses
c. Air pollution and the associated health implications
d. Noise pollution
e. Climate change and carbon storage
f. Pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems in urban centres
g. Resource and waste management

  1. To what extent will Government initiatives such as the Green Infrastructure Framework, the levelling up parks fund and urban tree challenge fund adequately address the issues associated with a lack of green space in towns and cities?  
  2. Will the Government achieve its aims to increase the amount of green cover to 40% in urban residential areas? What other additional measures should the Government take to increase green urban space?   
  3. Is access to urban green spaces equally distributed across all sectors of society? Do the environmental and associated health risks disproportionately impact certain groups? What barriers to access exist and how can they be addressed?   

Further information

Image: Unspalsh