Birmingham City Council will be recommending, on 8 February, that its Cabinet approves a 25-year City of Nature Plan to change the way it manages its parks, for environmental health recovery.
The Cabinet report states that if the City of Nature Plan is not accepted, the ability of Birmingham to become a net zero-carbon city by 2030 will be severely limited.
To ensure environmental recovery it recommends that new thresholds, which have been identified from research, are established in five areas of concern:
- The safety, cleanliness and sustainability of green and blue infrastructure by establishing a new model of governance.
- The accessibility of green spaces to all residents for their health and wellbeing.
- The fairness of access to green jobs resulting in a workforce that reflects the city’s diverse communities by fast-tracking first those in greatest need.
- The education of residents to know, love and protect blue and green spaces.
- The development of commercial revenue and innovative funding that invests in nature.
Going beyond parks, the report cites the Marmot Review which establishes a link between the wider health determinants linked to local environments that effect quality of life and life expectancy. It shows that the more deprived communities face increased risk to climate change, now and in the future.
The Cabinet report also references the Environmental Justice map which captures several indicators pertaining to the environment and years life lost, across the city.
It further argues that, nationally and internationally, the pandemic has universally exposed an inequity of access to urban green spaces and nature.
Consequently, the City of Nature Plan aims to fast track all the ‘red’ ward parks and open spaces, over a 10-year period, to help them reach a fair standard.
To achieve this ambition, it is proposed that the value of green spaces and parks must be embedded into services other than Parks Management, including: Public Health, Children’s Services and Birmingham Children’s Trust, Employability and Skills, Inclusive Growth and City Housing services.
Birmingham City council has surveyed the need for public engagement through YouGov polling; collecting ‘Earth Stories’ from Birmingham residents on how they use their parks and by inviting local schools and community groups, from six key wards, to learn about the plan.
Over five years, improvements in the six wards should cost around £498,000 and this will be resiliently funded from the Community Infrastructure Levy and fundraising from the newly established Birmingham City of Nature Alliance.
Birmingham’s City of Nature Plan will form one layer of Our Future City Plan 2040 and will be a substantive part of the city’s adaptation response to climate change, becoming a major strand of the Route to Zero Climate Emergency Plan.
Birmingham City Council is a member of the Future Parks Accelerator (FPA) programme which was designed to help councils find sustainable ways to fund and manage parks and open spaces, across entire towns and cities.
Through the FPA, which is part of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that administers the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, the council is also recommending this new set of priorities nationally, as an improvement that all cities could make.