Flourishing nature close to cities has the potential to deliver huge societal and environmental benefits. But the greenbelt is under threat due to pressure for development – often from poor housing strategies. Currently the greenbelt is a negative planning designation and often barely more ‘green’ than the national average, particularly when it comes to tree cover. It is underused by the very people who could benefit from getting closer to nature.
What would it take to create a wildly different space around cities, filled with trees, wildlife and nature reserves that we can all access?
What if...we could re-imagine the greenbelt as a place of thriving nature that delivers multiple benefits to cities and inhabitants. The greenbelt could lock away more carbon, provide space for nature, help with clean air and water and be a destination rather than a planning constraint.
We could show the land with the best potential for carbon draw down and nature benefits and identify where land ownership could be conducive to change.
Developing orchards and forest gardens could create a robust business case for investors by delivering financial and nature/carbon benefits. This would then unlock land and finance.
A community-led re-wilding incubator could create an iconic project to inspire and train tree-planting leaders.
City dwellers spent their weekends exploring the wild all around them and we brought the wild a little bit closer to home.
A wild belt trust preserved and enhanced this land for future generations.
What we did
We ran a three-week design sprint with a team of three staff from across the organisation. We kicked off our sprint with an away-day in Kent, visiting community planting, woodland and conventional arable land in the shadow of the M25. We developed over 30 ideas and explored around 5 of them in co-design work with a wide range of external stakeholders.
In the next phase we’ll be working up the most promising ideas into viable business cases and working with our colleagues in the north of England to see what might work on the land around our northern hubs. Want to help us develop our ideas? Here's some background to our thinking.