Green spaces are important – that’s why we’re asking Welsh Government to ensure people can access nature within a four-minute walk
People in Wales should be able to access nature four minutes from where they live, the Future Generations Commissioner is announcing during National Tree Week.
Sophie Howe has asked Welsh Government to set standards to ensure people can access natural green space within 300m of their home – that could be roughly a two-to four minute walk, a short wheelchair journey, or around a one-minute cycle.
It’s one of the recommendations in her Manifesto for the Future, which also calls on Welsh Government to commit to greening communities by delivering 20% tree canopy cover in every town and city in Wales by 2030.
Trees absorb pollutants and intercept harmful particulates from vehicle emissions.
Ms Howe receives a high level of correspondence from people concerned with building on green space and says connection to trees and green spaces has a great impact on the lives of current and future generations.
The commissioner is keen to empower communities to use the Well-being of Future Generations Act directly to ask questions of public bodies and the Welsh Government and challenge decisions that might go against the Act’s well-being goals and ways of working. The Act requires they consider the impact on future generations, of decisions made today.
She also advises Welsh Government and public bodies to consider the protection and enhancement of nature and biodiversity for every planning decision, and is encouraging nature-based solutions as a long-term approach to designing urban spaces.
In March 2020, the First Minister Mark Drakeford announced funding to create a National Forest, with £5 million allocated in 2020-21 to create areas of new woodland and help to restore and maintain some of Wales’ unique and irreplaceable ancient woodlands.
Denbighshire County Council is seeking to increase tree canopy in Rhyl, with a five-year ambition for 18,000 trees to be planted.
The commissioner, whose latest Manifesto for the Future highlights issues facing future generations that political parties should commit to tackling in their manifestos ahead of May’s Senedd elections, said the Well-being of Future Generations Act requires Welsh Government and public bodies to create a healthier Wales with cohesive communities and a resilient eco system.
Public bodies need to demonstrate how they are investing in nature, using evidence like i-tree assessments (used by some councils to quantify the benefits of increasing tree cover) and natural capital accounting, to inform decision making.
“Better connecting people to nature, from investing in green streets and green parking to urban forests, can help improve air quality, keeping people well and reducing inequalities,” she said.
“Greening our spaces can give people access to those smaller, day-to-day interactions with nature which we know have benefits for our health and well-being, which is especially important during pandemic restrictions.
“Investing in nature helps us fight the climate and nature emergency and its effects – for instance bolstering our defences against devastating threats like flooding.”
The commissioner is a member of the Green Recovery Taskforce, led by Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, bringing together key people and ideas for a nature-based recovery from Covid-19.
One of the ideas is a National Nature Service or Conservation Corp, an employment and skills programme to help more people become eco-literate and join nature-based industries.
Wales TUC has suggested 60,000 green jobs could be created in the next two years and Ms Howe has called for an investment in the skills and training needed to support the transition to a ‘better future’, responding to future trends in ways that reduce inequalities.
She’s asked Welsh Government to establish a national vision for Wales to become the most eco-literate and globally responsible nation in the world.
Her Manifesto for the Future also presses government to introduce the 20-minute neighbourhood concept for all towns and cities in Wales to ensure people can access key services closer to home; invest in nature and prioritise funding and support for large-scale habitat and wildlife restoration, creation and connectivity throughout Wales, and aim to increase spending year on year in line with the recommendations of the UK Committee on Climate Change.
National Tree Week, which runs until Dec 6, is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season. The commissioner is asking people to share images of their favourite trees on Instagram and Twitter @futuregencymru (full details below.)
Notes to editors
With a remit set out in law, Sophie Howe is the world’s only Future Generations Commissioner.
She took on the role after Wales introduced the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations Act in 2015.
Her job as the ‘guardian of the interests of future generations’ is to advise the Government and other public bodies on delivering lasting social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being.
The commissioner’s work prompted Cardiff to put record investment into cycle super highways combined with greening communities and focusing on reducing transport-related air pollution in deprived areas. In November 2020, she welcomed a report into congestion around the M4 called that called for major investment in public transport, following several interventions from the commissioner, saying the decision was “testament to the change that the Act is bringing about.”
Competition - Our competition is now CLOSED!
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is asking people to share photos or drawings of their favourite trees to celebrate National Tree Week.
One entrant will be selected to win a framed embroidered leaf print by Wales-based business Delicious Monster Tea.
How to enter: Share a photo or picture of your favourite tree, tell us what it means to you, tag us @futuregencymru (on Twitter or Instagram) and use these two hashtags: #ourfuturewales #nationaltreeweek
Closing date: Wednesday, Dec 9.
One winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries.
One winner will be contacted directly and will receive their prize in the post.
Terms & conditions.
- The competition is open to residents of the UK aged 13 years or over, except employees of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
- There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
- By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating their agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
- Route to entry for the competition and details of how to enter are via Instagram.com/futuregencymru and Twitter.com/futuregencymru
- Only one entry will be accepted per person.
- Closing date for entry will be 5pm, Wednesday, Dec 9, 2020. After this date, no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
- No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
- The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows: Share a photo or picture of your favourite tree, tell us what it means to you, tag us @futuregencymru (on Twitter or Instagram) and use these two hashtags: #ourfuturewales #nationaltreeweek
- We, the promoter [office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales] reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
- The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
- The prize is as follows: One framed leaf print ‘Put your phone down and go outside’ by Delicious Monster Tea. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and right is reserved to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
- A winner will be chosen at random by software, from all entries received and verified.
- The winner will be notified by DM on Twitter/Instagram within 28 days of the closing date, to ask for an address to which the prize should be posted. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, right is reserved to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
- The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
- The winner agrees to the use of their name in any publicity material, as well as their entry, which will be shared by us on social media during the competition. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current [UK] data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
- Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
- This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network. You are providing your information to the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and not to any other party.
- We will keep participants’ name and entry (image of trees) submitted during the competition, for 28 days after the prize is awarded. We will keep the winner’s name, entry and supplied home address for 28 days after the winner is announced.