2017 London Draft Environment Strategy for Green Infrastructure – Peter Massini

Peter Massini, as Head of Green Infrastructure at the GLA, presented the 2017 Draft Environment Strategy to a joint meeting of landscape architects and ecologists in October 2017

Peter Massini (head of green infrastructure at the GLA) explained the 2017 Draft Environment Strategy to a joint meeting of landscape architects and ecologists on  Thursday, 23 November 2017 held in AECOM’s London offices. He said its main characteristic is a high level of integration with other aspects of the London Plan, with transport planning and with London’s economic strategy. The Mayor is not omnipotent, does not have a treasure trove of resources and on most topics cannot tell the Boroughs what to do. Most of London’s funding comes from Central Government. The government is moving towards more power for cities but does not want another all-powerful GLC. The GLA aims to set out a framework in which other people can do things.

The Environment Strategy uses cartoons/infographics to illustrate what the strategy is about. It shows, for example, that green infrastructure has a close connection with climate change. Just saying ‘parks are good’ is not enough. We also need to show benefits for health, air quality, water management etc.
A leading objective is to raise London’s green cover from 47% to 50%. ‘Only another 3%?‘ you may think. But with the population zooming up, it is an ambitious target. Creating new parkland is very difficult. So most of the 3% will be achieved in the public realm and and by greening buildings (with living roofs and walls).
The great news for landscape architects is that the GLA will establish a (temporary) Green Spaces Commission. It will look for new opportunities and will help in ‘transitioning’ parks when their management is taken on by charitable trusts (as is happening to the Crystal Palace).
We need to know what the open spaces do in addition to providing for recreation their contributions to flood management and biodiversity). In Lewisham Town Centre there have been substantial increases in land values that were partly enabled by the Environment Agency’s investment in flood management upstream (eg in Sutfliffe Park and Chinbrook Meadows). We need to ‘capture’ benefits of this kind in Natural Capital accounting so that the figures can support additional expenditure on green space. It is often the case that relatively modest expenditure on green infrastructure can bring substantial benefits (as with the expenditure on habitat creation in St James Park). We need to think about the function of parks and greenspace in building green transport network. You have an argument for more investment if you have cycle routes in paths. This is a strategic vision for London infrastructure.
Peter finished with the interesting point that discussion of  the Green Belt is muddled by confusing two separate issues (1) whether or not to allow building on Green Belt land (2) how to improve use and management of the green belt (with funding from green bonds, agri-environment policy or elsewhere).
Note: The phrase ‘the Mayor will consider’ is  used in the draft strategy but will not appear in the final strategy. This is a legal requirement.

Tom Turner

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