Campaigners urge metro mayors to ‘green’ city regions
Environmental campaigners have called on the incoming metro mayors to take urgent action to improve the environment in their city regions.
A coalition of groups, including the National Trust and The Wildlife Trusts, today urged newly elected regional mayors to use strategic plans and budgets to ‘green’ the areas under their control.
Metro mayors, a central component of the Government’s devolution agenda, are being elected in six city regions in today’s polls, creating a new tier of political leadership in England.
To coincide with the elections, the campaign groups have published Greening the city regions: opportunities for metro mayors, which includes a Green City Regions Index that indicates each region’s strengths and weaknesses on a range of issues, from air quality and housing to the natural environment and transport.
It also highlights areas where the new metro mayors should take action, showing how the new role and its powers offer ‘significant opportunities’ to drive ambitious progress on the environment.
‘The new metro mayors in these city regions have the powers and funding that can make a real difference to transport in their areas,’ said Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport.
‘We will want to see them exercise these powers by improving public transport and by tackling air pollution. Investment in better buses, walking and cycling and stronger controls on polluting cars and trucks will transform people's lives and the success of their cities.’
Tamsin Cooper, acting director of the Green Alliance said: ‘Devolution aims to unlock the potential of England’s cities, but metro mayors will be the key. Cities have to be resilient to climate change and grow their low carbon economies if they are to thrive and grow in the long term.
‘The new metro mayors have an historic opportunity to use their new status to accelerate environmental action, creating sustainable city regions around the country.’
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) also urged metro mayors to take a lead on the environment and to focus on sustainable housing.
‘House building is a national priority, but we need a much greater focus on building the sort of homes and communities that will last the test of time – high quality, low energy developments with plenty of space for nature,’ said chief executive Shaun Spiers.
‘The number of new homes we build is important, but the metro mayors have a great opportunity to focus on their quality and location as well.
‘New homes should be built as far as possible on suitable brownfield sites, near jobs and existing transport links. In this way we can both save countryside and make our towns and cities exciting and sustainable places to live.’
‘Our cities are important in their own right for wildlife and wild places. Metro mayors can deliver ambitious plans for creating amazing and exciting spaces for wildlife to thrive close to where people live,’ added Stephen Trotter, director for England, The Wildlife Trusts.
‘A healthy natural environment is the foundation of a thriving economy and a healthy society, with high quality, accessible wildlife-rich environments attracting investment and talent to a city.
'They also work as a “natural health service”: people need breathing spaces to relax, and green places to walk, run, cycle and enjoy wildlife. New mayors can help reduce the costs on the NHS and address inequalities by creating healthy and resilient natural environments.
‘Making our cities greener and better places to live and work therefore has to be an urgent priority for the new mayors.’
Richard Hebditch, external affairs director of the National Trust, emphasised the role the regional mayors can play in protecting the ‘everyday places people live and work’.
‘The most important places in the country are protected through organisations like the National Trust or through designations like National Parks. But the everyday places people live and work also matter,’ he said.
‘We need to ensure new developments make our city regions more liveable and beautiful and that parks and local heritage sites are protected and well looked after. metro mayors have the powers to make a huge difference on these issues if they seize this opportunity.’