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MINISTER APPLAUDS NEIGHBOURHOODS GREEN

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Minister for parks and green spaces Yvette Cooper spoke to an audience of regeneration and social housing delegates...
Minister for parks and green spaces Yvette Cooper spoke to an audience of regeneration and social housing delegates at the inaugural Neighbourhoods Green conference on Monday. The conference was the first time members of the social housing sector have come together to address the importance of green spaces. To mark this occasion, event organisers - Notting Hill Housing Group, Peabody Trust and English Nature -launched the London Housing Greenspace Network (LHGN) to develop good practice and the strategies necessary to promote and ensure quality design, management and use within the sector.

Investment in new and existing green spaces has been in steady decline for many decades leaving behind under-used, and often unsafe areas. Research, however, has demonstrated that these green spaces can contribute to reducing anti-social behaviour and contributing to people's health and overall qualify of life. The minister announced that the first 30 CABE Space enablers were ready to assist local authorities improve their public realm, and that this should start to redress some of the problems around local authority housing land. Social housing and regeneration leaders need to rediscover the vision and values around green and open spaces and view them as an asset to communities, rather than a liability.

To break the downward spiral, organisations involved in regeneration and new housing developments need to break down silos internally so ideas are shared from teams on the ground to those drafting plans for the future. To signify the need for a green space 'champions', the LHGN will be established so the social housing sector can work together, helping document and share good practice, develop training and guidance for staff and residents, and bring in new partners with proven expertise in planning, building and managing green and open spaces.

Ms Cooper said: 'I'd like to thank the Neighbourhoods Green organisers Notting Hill Housing Group, Peabody Trust and English Nature for highlighting the imp ortance and the benefits of green space to the social housing sector.

'I hope to see this sector take on board the value of open green spaces and the part they can play in creating a better quality of life for communities across the country.'

Further comments from Yvette Cooper:

'People want to feel proud of the places where they live. But if there is nowhere for children to play, pensioners to stroll, or families to enjoy, then the quality of life for the whole community is undermined.

'As the deputy prime minister said when he outlined his vision for sustainable communities, it's not just about bricks and mortar. If people don't like what they see when they open their front doors, they won't want to live there. Communities that work need to be well thought out and meet the needs of the local people.

'And that doesn't have to always be about anti-social behaviour. Even when the streets are clean and safe, people are reluctant to live on poorly designed estates without places for the kids to have fun, greenery to admire, and beautiful or pleasant places to stop and chat.'

Comment from Sarah Harrison, Notting Hill Housing Group, deputy director for Neighbourhoods:

'RSLs are well placed to assist residents and local authorities in the regeneration of public open spaces across London. Our residents mainly live in flats, and parks are natural extensions of their home.'

Comment from Mathew Frith, Peabody Trust, landscape regeneration manager:

'The trust has long recognised the importance of its spaces to our buildings and our residents. Whilst we are doing our best to improve this, there are a number of constraints that the sector needs to address as a whole before this can be achieved. We see Neighbourhoods Green as the first step in this process.'

Comment from Peter Massini, English Nature, regional policy officer:

'Many people in towns and cities value contact with wildlife close to the places where they live. Improving the ecology of gre en spaces in and around social housing can provide benefits to residents and create a space for nature.'

Notes

Notting Hill Housing Group is one of the country's leading housing associations managing nearly 19,000 homes in London, housing over 50,000 people and employing 600 staff.

Peabody Trust is one of London's largest social landlords in London, responsible for managing over 19,000 properties. It is committed to improving the environments of its residents, and has taken innovative steps in sustainable construction such as at BedZED and Murray Grove.

English Nature is the government's independent nature conservation adviser with powers and duties to protect and enhance wildlife and geology throughout England.

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