Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester yesterday, Villers said she “fully recognised the difficult decisions there have been on local authority funding over the last nine years”.
According to government advisors the Committee for Climate Change, the total proportion of urban green space in England declined by eight percentage points since 2001, from 63% to 55% in 2018.
But Villiers said the government's commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, made in June, means that “we will have to invest in nature and our open spaces, so I foresee that will be a source of funding for the future for the creation of new parks and the enhancement of parks that we already have”.
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“Becoming a net-zero economy means a strong focus on biodiversity, on wildlife, and on the natural environment so we can lock up that carbon,” she added.
Villiers also said the government had to “sort out financial stability for the social care sector so we relieve that pressure on local authority budgets”.
Sitting on the same panel, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire said the issue of green spaces “was allied to the concept of net gain”.
“If we develop the quid pro quo, where we know about the relationship between the built environment and natural environment, we can unlock the necessary funding,” he said.
Viliers also hinted that the government's proposals on extended producer responsibility (EPR) could include a duty on producers to pay for the plastic packaging which is littered in the UK’s green spaces.
“I can see there is an attractive case that some of the costs of collecting plastic packaging litter in our parks and open spaces, might be appropriate to be funded by the EPR, but I must say that decisions on that are dependent on the Treasury and are yet to be made,” she said.