Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Concreting over Green spaces could seriously damage your health...

I've called on Brighton and Hove City Council to do more to protect urban green spaces against development to improve the health of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Academic studies have shown that there are wide variations in life expectancy across the city, with an average resident of Moulsecoomb, Bevendean or Queen’s Park being likely to live a significantly shorter life than an average resident of Rottingdean, Withdean or Patcham.

At the same time, academics at several universities have argued that preserving green spaces in more deprived areas – even small ones – can boost everyone’s health and reduce such differences.

This council has shown an alarming tendency to approve building and car parking schemes on green spaces and grass verges - but the experts say this is widening inequalities – and shortening lives.

As academics have said – this isn’t about ‘prettying up the neighbourhood’ – it’s about reducing health inequalities and, frankly, making life a little fairer (and longer!) for everyone.

I presented a motion (reproduced in full below) to the full council, which batted it down the the cabinet member responsible for planning and the environment (Geoffrey Theobald). He said no - for the mazing reason that there isn't enough cash in the council's coffers to consider the health impact of every development bid.

Am I alone in thinkin that's appaling? And that what it shows isn't that we should shy away from protecting thwe health of the most vulnerable - but that we need to ensure our planning officers are better resourced so they can do their job properly?

Sometimes it seems at though this Tory Council just doesn’t care about health, preserving our built environment, addressing inequality – anything at all in fact except keeping Council Tax bills down.

Here's the motion in full:



This Council notes:

The 2008 report of The Director of Public Health for Brighton and Hove, which reported that health inequality persists in the city, and that this manifests itself in wide variations in life expectancy, with an average resident of Moulsecoomb, Bevendean or Queen’s Park being likely to live a significantly shorter life than an average resident of Rottingdean, Withdean or Patcham.

The recently-published findings of researchers at Glasgow University and the University of St Andrews that green spaces near homes can reduce such variations in life expectancy, and the November 2008 comments in The Lancet journal of Dr Terry Hartig of The Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University in Sweden that: ‘Green space does more than ‘pretty up’ the neighbourhood – it appears to have real effects on health inequality, or a kind that politicians and health authorities should take seriously’.

And therefore resolves

To take into account this impact on life expectancy and health generally whenever it considers removing, developing, or granting landlord’s consent for development on any green spaces under its control in the city, however small.

Proposed by: Cllr Ben Duncan

Seconded by: Cllr Keith Taylor

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff - It is also playgrounds we can be looking at....

    Interestingly studies suggest that our 'safe playgrounds' and safety-orientated society have led to children being less able to cope with uncertainty. Some argue that standardised play equipment is actually dangerous. When the distance between all the rungs on the climbing net or the ladder is exactly the same, children have no need to concentrate on where to put their feet. This lesson cannot be carried over into all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms with which one is confronted throughout life.

    It may be unrealistic to think that we can restore children to the ‘free-range childhoods’ enjoyed by earlier generations, but we can take steps to lessen the constraints. Too often our playgrounds are devoid of any greenery or free-spirited, playful engagement with nature. Let us call a halt to these more sterile playgrounds with tubular steel, rubber surfacing and primary coloured plastics galore.

    Freiburg, a German city, has done just that for over a decade. At a fraction of the cost they have built over 40 ‘nature playgrounds’ designed with a lifetime in mind. The results are diverse spaces with mounds, ditches, logs, boulders, wild flowers, secret corners and shady spots. The construction materials are a model of sustainability compared to the raw materials and processes used to make conventional playgrounds. Not surprisingly research shows more children staying away from television. See more: