To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of the creation of a UK Garden City scheme to (a) promote horticulture and (b) promote and reinvigorate green spaces that are vital to physical and mental wellbeing during the covid-19 outbreak.
The merits of such a scheme were considered when responding to a select committee report on Garden Tourism in 2019. Such a scheme risks confusion with the successful City of Culture competition and other extant schemes such as Britain in Bloom. The Government did not accept the committee's recommendation.
We do of course recognise the immense benefits of being able to access green spaces, such as parks and gardens, to mental and physical well-being. Defra is collaborating with the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group on a Growth Strategy for the sector to help ensure the ornamental horticulture sector continues to thrive. This is industry led and underlined by research identifying key areas of opportunity for growth in the sector, including the growing importance of outdoor green spaces to health.
The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan includes commitments to introduce stronger new standards for green infrastructure and to support local authorities to assess provision. Green infrastructure includes greenspace such as parks and woodlands and other environmental features such as street trees, hedgerows and green walls and roofs. Natural England and Public Health England have published a Rapid Scoping Review of Health and Wellbeing Evidence to inform the standards.
Natural England is testing the standards in trials with local authorities and developers, and they are due to be launched in 2022. The aim is to embed the standards in national planning guidance and policy to ensure that good green infrastructure is secured for all communities through the planning system.