Last Updated: 08 October 2010
Created: 08 October 2010
Thank you, Mr Crausby, for the opportunity to speak in this crucial debate. I must profess that I do not share the expertise of Barry Gardiner, but I do have a huge interest in the matter under discussion, and the residents I represent often write to me on issues connected with it. He made some excellent points about the need to quantify the environmental benefits and values of forest ecosystems and habitat projects-he referred to their "true value"-and I certainly support that principle. I hope that the Minister will give it much consideration.
I will use this opportunity to talk specifically about my experiences in my constituency. Before I became its Member of Parliament, I represented its northern sector-the Abbey Meads ward-for 10 years. The area is a new development, although it is sometimes unkindly referred to as a concrete jungle, and that relates to the points that I shall speak about. During the 10 years in which I represented that new development, the number of houses in it went from 1,800 to 8,000. As a result of that, the key principle that I developed was that sufficient provision needs to be put in place at the beginning, rather than retrospectively. It is impossible to lower the density of the housing now and to put in sufficient provision.
In my maiden speech following my election, I touched on the quality-of-life aspects of green and open spaces, and the issue comes up time and again. From a planning perspective, my concern is that developers and councils are too often allowed to tick boxes and to pay lip service to making sufficient provision. That is not acceptable, and a lot more thought needs to be put into doing things more appropriately.
There are two areas that we can focus on. One is making a lot of areas more open and accessible by pooling more of them. We could have community forests, and the local community could take ownership, come along, enjoy the benefits and learn about these things. We can also raise understanding through education and first-hand experience. I have noticed that in my constituency several schools are leading by example, and turning part of their land over to the development of their own projects, to give schoolchildren the relevant first-hand experience at a young age. I visited two such projects at St. Francis and Orchid Vale primary schools, and it is an excellent approach. I know about that from experience, because school geography lessons encouraged me to take an interest, and that is how we shall educate future generations.
To return to my original point, while we continue in this country to build on green open space we must get sufficient and correct provision now, because it cannot be done retrospectively. Let us proceed in such a way that communities will welcome it and benefit from it. When we come to estimate the true value, several more tick boxes will become important, which I would fully support.
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(To see my contribution, forward to 48 minutes)