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Developers treating green spaces as ‘optional extras’

Scottish environmental groups have complained that some developers are treating green spaces as ‘optional extras’ when designing new projects.

In a joint submission to the Scottish Government’s local government and communities committee, Scottish Environment Link and the Scottish Wildlife Trust said they remain ‘frustrated’ that all too many developments are coming forward where parks and green infrastructure appears to be an ‘after-thought’.

‘It would appear that many of the policies and procedures that apply to green infrastructure are termed as “the developer should”, rather than “the developer must”,’ the submission states.

‘This results in the provision of high-quality green space often being treated as an optional extra by developers.’

The submission was part of a roundtable evidence session on assessing green spaces in Scotland, and the written submission from the two organisations states they would like to see stronger planning measures to ensure that ‘green infrastructure is planned into new developments from the start’.

In its written submission to the committee, Fife Council said it has seen its budget for parks, streets and open spaces cut by 25%, or £3 million, in the last four years.

According to the report, this has led to a 25% reduction in the number of maintenance staff and 70% fewer countryside rangers.

‘The reports budget has also been severely cut,’ adds Fife Council in the report. ‘This means less regular repairing of paths, benches and buildings and replanting of tress and shrubs. This is having an impact on the quality of green space, making it less attractive for people to use.

‘This can lead to increased pressure to build houses on some green spaces, as developers argue that they are poor quality and not well used.’

Another submission from greenspace Scotland quoted the results of a survey carried out last year, which showed 40% of people think the quality of their local green spaces has reduced in the last five years.

‘There is an urgent need for coordinated action to reverse these depressing declines in green space and quality, and the negative impacts they will have on our health, our communities and our environment,’ the submission from green Scotland adds.

Earlier this month, New Start reported on a new report by Fields in Trust, which claimed Britain’s parks and green spaces provide people with more than £34 billion of health and wellbeing benefits.

It added the nation’s parks and green spaces also save the NHS at least £111 million per year through prevented GP visits.

To read the full committee report, with all the submissions, click here.

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