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Public protection
People are to be given the ability to protect environmentally and locally important special green spaces, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced on Wednesday June 8.

The recently published Natural Environment White Paper includes proposals to give communities new powers to designate protected green areas as part of local neighbourhood plans.

Local communities will be able to earmark for special consideration local 'green space' land – whether its value is in its natural beauty, its historic resonances, its recreational value, its tranquillity or its importance as wildlife habitat.

The recent National Ecosystem Assessment concluded that the health benefits of living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year. Urban green spaces can affect house values, mental wellbeing, air and water quality, carbon absorption and can provide natural flood defences and drainage.

More information on the UK National Ecosystem Assessment can be found here uknea.unep-wcmc.org Two of the main ambitions of the planning system are protecting the natural environment and promoting sustainable growth. Ministers believe these are mutually compatible aims and they will form the basis of Government planning policy reforms. Protected sites should complement and not undermine investment in homes, jobs and other essential services.

A new National Planning Policy Framework, setting out the Government's key economic, social and environmental objectives, will be published shortly.

Eric Pickles said: "Promoting economic growth and protecting our natural environment are the two ambitions of our planning reforms. By giving local people greater control over much loved green spaces we are placing the strongest emphasis on the protection of the environment and local communities' interests.

Caroline Spelman said: "I hope that the Government's White Paper will inspire more people to enjoy nature from an early age and pass that passion for the environment down through the generations. That would be a legacy well worth leaving."