Opinion: ‘Never under-value Peterborough’s green spaces’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 20th February 2022, 3:15 pm
Ferry Meadows is one of the city's best-loved green spaces.
Ferry Meadows is one of the city's best-loved green spaces.

The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but perhaps one legacy of that time will be our appreciation of open, green spaces.

It was in those verdant areas that we could meet friends and loved ones, albeit in socially-distant circumstances. A walk in the sunshine through a park provided many with a much-needed break from being confined at home.

If we want to be the UK’s Environment Capital then we need to lead from the front. Protecting open spaces is important.

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It’s also vital to create new spaces and improve existing ones to enhance the surroundings and to make places more welcoming for families, people with disabilities and pets.

Furthermore, if we are going to be a healthier city, we need to have more and better open spaces for recreation and exercise.

Perhaps for those with green spaces attached to their own homes, it may seem less of a problem, but not everyone is so fortunate. Their only connection to nature comes from the green spaces that the city provides.

I met a couple of individuals who are working on the John Clare countryside project. They are doing amazing work that will benefit the residents of Peterborough.

We must support these types of initiatives because they not only combat the climate and biodiversity crises, but also provide engaging, attractive landscapes, and amenities for people right across our city, as part of a concerted approach to health and wellbeing. It also helps the city grasp the economic benefits of attracting more visitors.

On the surface, these “quality-of-life” measures may sound somewhat intangible. For some, it is not as compelling as pounds and pence.

But there are financial implications. A city that doesn’t ensure proper facilities is inviting trouble.

It means a city that has less ability to exercise and improve overall health.

It has implications for the mental health of residents and the associated costs that come from its deterioration. A city that is less pleasant will find it more difficult to attract businesses, particularly those that rely upon creative individuals, such as digital-focused companies.These firms tend to be high value and add to a city’s prestige.

There’s bigger benefit in terms of attracting more businesses and people to Peterborough.

A city that offers more recreational activities, open spaces, leisure and arts activities, and is leading on biodiversity and the climate crisis, is far more likely to be attractive to external investment compared to one that talks a good game, but fails to deliver on its promises.

When Peterborough turns the corner and elects a Labour administration, one of our key priorities will be to ensure the quality of life, and that we have sufficient open spaces for all. We will enact policies which reflect the fact that “quality of life” is not just nice to have, but an absolute necessity.