You have a background in working in the green spaces sector, but what made you focus on this initially?
My background is in planning and ecology. Traditionally, ecology has tended to focus on ‘wild’ rural areas, but urban ecology is rapidly gaining recognition as being of equal importance. With 80% of the UK population living in urban areas, urban green spaces can be the first (or even only) exposure to nature that some people have. But green spaces are under pressure and I wanted to explore how we could resolve some of the problems they face.
What sort of reaction have you had from professionals working in parks and green spaces to your report last year looking at funding green spaces?
The reaction has been entirely positive from professionals across a range of green space sectors, from local authorities to NGOs. We couldn’t hope to cover all the different possible funding mechanisms, but I’m very pleased that Nesta and HLF are helping to support trials of some of the mechanisms we included in our Green Society report, such as Park Improvement Districts and endowments, through the ‘Rethinking Parks’ programme.
Is there one single thing that professionals can do to get politicians to take the funding of green spaces more seriously and appreciate the benefits they bring to society?
Unfortunately, there is no single solution. It takes voices from a wide variety of sectors and locations to speak up about the importance of green spaces to them, and the potential for green spaces to deliver benefits that could save us money in the long term (for example in healthcare and flood risk management). What would help (but is not a panacea) is for researchers to place economic values on the full suite of benefits that a coherent and well-managed network of green spaces across a city can provide.