Imagine a machine that could make you happy.
And helped you stay fit. And gave you some peace and quiet too.
These days it would have to be zero carbon - let’s say solar-powered. Even better, make it actually absorb CO2. And tackle species loss. And let’s make it absorb pollution and improve air quality as well.
That would be an amazing machine. And it would have to be free so that everyone could enjoy it, regardless of income.
It already exists.
It’s called natural green space and it works especially well if it includes established trees and hedgerows. We instinctively know it matters. We all enjoy it. House prices go up next to it and we leap to its defence when its threatened.
The happiness it brings is now well evidenced in solid mental health research.
But for years it was hard to defend in practice. You needed a landscape painter to declare it outstandingly beautiful or some great crested newts. People even used aged laws to declare local green spaces village greens.
I’m quite proud to have played my part in writing a minor Lib Dem policy that made it into national planning policy in 2012 during our coalition government and finally created a recognised designation - Local Green Space - allowing communities to protect even quite scruffy green spaces with no newts, crested or otherwise.
I’m really proud that Cheltenham Borough Council designated 16 of them in our local plan last year. They’re in Hesters Way and Hatherley, Fairview, Lynworth, Charlton Kings, Leckhampton, St Mark’s, Swindon Village and elsewhere - not just leafy outskirts but urban areas that probably value them even more.
They were examined by the dreaded planning inspectors and survived all challenges. Council recently restated its support for them even if today’s government revives its controversial changes to planning law.
I’m also proud that Cheltenham protected green spaces alongside planning for the thousands of new homes we need including new social housing for rent targeted at those on Cheltenham’s housing waiting list.
And how great that all those new homelovers will have green spaces to enjoy too.
- Councillor Martin Horwood, cabinet member for Customer and Regulatory Services, including planning and licensing