Essex aims to double green infrastructure by 2040

Essex County Council has pledged to help double the amount of green infrastructure land by 2040.

In less than 20 years Essex is aiming that 30 per cent of all land in the county should enhance biodiversity and the natural environment, following a decision by Essex County Council’s (ECC) cabinet to agree to standardised green infrastructure.

Natural green infrastructure (GI) covers about 14 per cent of Essex.

GI can be defined as the diverse network of spaces that include natural assets, wildlife habitats and environmental features. GI includes parks and gardens, amenity green space, natural and semi-natural urban green spaces, green corridors, water – such as coasts, rivers, lakes and ponds – and other public spaces as diverse as allotments and city farms.

GI is often referred to as a network of these natural and semi-natural assets and spaces, which can be joined together connecting urban and rural areas and strategically planned.

The Essex Green Infrastructure Standards Commission, part of the Essex County Council-led climate action initiative, is recommending that GI be increased to 25 per cent by 2030 and 30 per cent by 2040.

Councillor Lesley Wagland, ECC’s cabinet member for economic renewal, infrastructure and planning, said: “What we’re talking about here is a focus on green infrastructure across the county. Some of that can be hard infrastructure – leaky dams being an obvious example but some of it of course is green in colour.

“For us in Essex this is similar in its impact to traditional infrastructure – it can make it easier for more active travel, it can improve places for people to live and work and spend their leisure time.

“However the most important part of it is that it improves access to green spaces, it reduces the carbon impact of new housing, it can retain water in the land so that it doesn’t flood homes and highways causing soil erosion and it changes land use across the county in a holistic way.

“And we’ve seen great success with the Essex Forest Initiative and the development of sustainable drainage solutions using nature to manage surface water.

“But we need to look at nature as part of our everyday infrastructure to develop better and more sustainable ways of working, living and traveling across the county.”

The Essex Climate Action Commission cited the Essex Green Infrastructure Strategy as a core climate action that Essex County Council (ECC) was already undertaking.

The strategy also aims to increase urban greening through measures such as tree planting, sustainable drainage systems and green buildings that will improve health and wellbeing, absorb carbon and lower the “heat island effect” and air pollution in built up areas.

It is recommended to deliver 30 per cent greening of towns, villages and new developments by 2040 and to create a Climate Focus Area (CFA) as a pilot to accelerate action on climate change and provide examples of best practice.

Cllr Wagland added: “The green infrastructure standards are an effective response to national government’s 25-year environment plan and will support delivery of our progress towards 30 per cent natural green infrastructure which is a commitment that ECC has made in our response to the Essex Climate Action Commission’s recommendations.

“We all know our residents want greener spaces, greener planning and housing development to be more sustainable and these standards provide a proper vehicle for doing just that, delivering better planning proposals and development outcomes for people and for wildlife.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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