Green Britain: Wild spaces ‘boost our health and our wealth’, report says

Green Britain: Wild spaces ‘boost our health and our wealth’, report says

Green Britain: John Ingham and Dale Vince discuss campaign

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Billions of pounds can be saved in health costs by allowing everyone access to more green spaces, it was said. And the experience of connecting with nature will ensure better all-round health for the public. The report – A Wilder Recovery – by the Wildlife Trusts, urges ministers to spend an extra £1billion a year ­protecting nature and another £3billion a year helping farmers protect the environment.

It also called for a new planning designation – Wildbelt – for land set aside to help nature recovery.

The report said: “In 2009, Natural England estimated that £2.1billion would be saved annually through averted health costs if everyone in England had equal access to green space.

“People who connect with nature every day are more active and mentally resilient, experience reduced social isolation and ­loneliness, and have better all-round health.”

Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett said: “Ultimately, our economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of nature and not the other way around. Everything we hold dear – our health, homes and livelihoods – depends on what nature provides. It’s time we recognise this and behave accordingly.

“Nature is our strongest ally in building a resilient recovery after Covid-19. But for too long decisions have come at the expense of the natural world. The amount we spend on ­activities which damage nature still far outstrips our spending to restore it.”

The report cited studies showing that people with access to green spaces have better physical and mental health.

It highlighted a scheme run by the NHS and Lancashire Wildlife Trust that helps participants reduce mental health conditions through outdoor activity.

It comes as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has teamed up with construction groups to demand building schemes take climate change and nature into account.

An RSPB report, produced with the National House Building Council and Barratt Developments, urges builders to include nature-friendly measures such as nest boxes and design wildlife-friendly landscapes.

RSPB CEO Beccy Speight said: “The house building industry is uniquely placed in having an opportunity to create not just sustainable houses, but new sustainable communities, where people thrive alongside wildlife.

“I hope that the industry will embrace it and help to drive positive change. We all have our part to play as we seek to revive our world.”

A Defra spokesman said: “The Government is committed to helping our native wildlife recover and thrive.

“We have made progress implementing our Environment Plan for a greener future and our landmark Environment Bill will go further by bringing in legal targets aiming to halt the decline of nature.”

The Daily Express’s Green Britain Needs You crusade is also fighting to protect our environment.

Comment by Craig Bennett

As the Prime Minister gears up to host the leaders of the world’s richest countries at the G7 Summit in Cornwall next weekend, one phrase seems to be everywhere – a “green recovery”.

But what does that mean, why would we want it, and how can the Government make it happen?

A poll revealed spending more on protecting the environment is people’s second highest priority for kick-starting the country after the pandemic – only behind the NHS.

Yet, the UK is ranked second from bottom among the G7 countries in its spending on green recovery.

A report out today from The Wildlife Trusts has shown that there are real gains in having a nature-positive economy.

Creating new parks would help too. It is estimated that the health service would save £2.1billion annually if everyone in England had equal access to green space. Our prosperity and health depend on nature – but we’re running out of time to save it.

What needs to change to get the “green recovery” back on track? The answer is every single part of government. Efforts to protect nature have fallen solely under the remit of the Department for Environment.

Meanwhile, the Transport Department has forged ahead with projects that harm nature such as HS2 and £27billion on new roads, the Housing Department is unpicking the planning system to replace green with more grey, and the Treasury has cut funding to restore what wildlife we have left.

During the pandemic, people have found solace and joy in nature as never before. It’s time every part of government recognised the vital role nature plays in our society and economy too.

Craig Bennett is chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts

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