Green Halo Partnership: First Anniversary
The Green Halo Partnership held a conference on 27 November to mark the first anniversary of our launch. Over 70 people got together at the Ordnance Survey’s Offices in Southampton to discuss what had been achieved and how the Partnership could make an impact in the coming year. This report summarises our discussions.
Our first year
Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park and the Partnership’s Convenor, opened the event with a review of the past 12 months. Since the Partnership was formed natural capital and the protection of our ecosystem services has risen up the political agenda. The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and its plans for rural and agricultural support post-Brexit both adopted a natural capital-based approach.
The 25 Year Plan acknowledged that valuing our ecosystem services lay at the heart of protecting our natural environment. The Government sought to back this up with a funding regime which gave ‘public money for public goods’, in other words one which protected and enhanced natural capital.
More organisations recognised this, and in the past year the Green Halo Partnership had grown to over 70 members who shared the vision of creating a world class economy and environment on our doorstep. Alison suggested that one of our successes over the past year was ensuring that the value of our natural capital had become recognised and understood by so many diverse organisations.
How a natural capital perspective could help us achieve the shared aims of improving our economy and the quality of life across our region was becoming part of so many conversations: from the debate about developing Fawley Waterside through to how our population can become more active and healthy.
In the coming year, Alison suggested, we need to build the breadth of the partnership and ensure as much of our planning and delivery across the area took account of natural capital. All partners had a part to play in ensuring their own policies and plans took account of natural capital and recognised the opportunities our ecosystem services offered. The should also seize opportunities to shape wider debates.
The Partnership offers a powerful collective voice which can make a positive difference to the life of our communities. We also have the opportunity to shape national policy, and should welcome the Government’s openness to a discussion about how a natural capital perspective can make a difference on the ground.
Alison concluded by thanking all who had signed up to the Partnership, and encouraging those who had not to do so. She looked forward to some of the practical projects we would hear more about over the morning coming to fruition.
The Government’s View
We were delighted to have several of Defra’s new Green Finance Policy Team join us, and Dan Barwick spoke about the 25 Year Plan.
Dan explained how the work on the Natural Capital Committee had shaped the Government’s policy approach on natural capital. Ministers saw it as a way of shaping better decision-making, encouraging an integrated approach to the natural environment and growth.
There is a cross-Whitehall approach to natural capital, with the Treasury’s ‘Green Book’, which guides Government decision-making, already reflecting that approach. Departments are working on the details of how improvement can be measured and appropriate targets set to realise the Government’s ambitions set out in the 25 Year Plan.
Local action was vital to realising the Plan’s ambitions, and Defra were pleased to see the local leadership and ambition the Green Halo Partnership offered. That local partnership working, combined with better local planning and supported by funding across the public and private sectors was key to success.
Reflections on the Green Halo
Several of those who have been part of the Partnership over our first spoke about their experience of working on the themes we have identified. Amanda Glenn from West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Sophie Burton from Energise Me told us how the Green Halo has brought organisations together to raise awareness of how the natural environment can improve peoples’ physical and mental health.
They spoke about a number of small local initiatives, from allotments for those living with dementia and their carers to the “Good Elf” who raised awareness amongst our communities. The Partnership offered a way of bringing people together to develop ideas and promote activity.
Gary Wilburn of HPW architects spoke about projects which included nature as part of development – from small initiatives to multi-million pound regeneration schemes. In each case recognising the place of natural capital helped create attractive and sustainable schemes which offered more than simple commercial benefit. Gary suggested the Green Halo offered a vehicle for sharing good practice and implementing these ideas closer to home.
The Partnership has explored how our local economy can benefit from a natural capital perspective, and Dave Barnes from Christchurch & East Dorset Councils spoke about how we can overcome the perceived tensions between business and the environment. This is a challenging task, but the Partnership can and should be a powerful voice, aiming to highlight opportunities and lead with the examples many of its members offered. Dave also told us about the plans for a Christchurch coastal country park, which would bring nature into the heart of an urban community, and bring with it an economic boost.
Our final theme is the natural environment, and Dante Munns from the RSPB spoke about the work done to improve habitats for birds and other wildlife in the New Forest. Right now it is critical we do what we can to protect and improve bio-diversity, but Dante noted that restoring woodland also improved the quality of water, reduced the risk of downstream flooding incidents and created a great place for people to get outdoors. A natural capital approach encouraged us to work in harmony with nature, not against it.
Our last speaker was Andrew Lee from the South Downs National Park, which is part of the Green Halo Partnership. The National Park’s Local Plan – its suite of planning policies – was a vital document in shaping how people lived and work in the area. Andrew explained how it had the importance of the area’s natural capital woven through the policies it set out, building on a core policy on ecosystem services. The Plan is currently before a Planning Inspector, and its examination would test how best we could implement practical policies to protect and improve natural capital.
At the heart of the morning were seven workshops which gave all those attending a chance to discuss how a natural capital perspective could help with some of the economic, social and environmental challenges we face.
Key messages included:
Natural capital, planning & design
- We must bring housing developers into the partnership
- Examples of best practice must be celebrated and shared.
Natural capital and air quality
- Part of Southampton City Council’s planning for a ‘green’ city should include driving behaviour change
- Measuring the impact of policies is vital, and SCC is working with Solent University on this.
Natural capital, water and flooding
- We need the right ‘organisational architecture’ in the industry, with companies, regulators and others working together to achieve change
- Gathering the right data to inform decision-making remains a challenge.
Natural capital for health and wellbeing
- Important that we shape health and wellbeing initiatives to meet the specific needs of our population
- Prevention is high on the public health agenda and we must continue to find the right partners to discuss what can be achieved.
Natural capital and our woodlands
- We should find ways of embedding learning about natural capital in our schools
- Accurate data are vital in making the case for the benefits of trees in, for example, removing particulate pollution.
The social value of natural capital
- We must involve our wider community in the discussion about natural capital
- The Partnership should think about communicating what it does across all sectors and area.
Geovation – managing natural capital value with spatial data
- How can the Green Halo learn about employing spatial data effectively from the Geovation start-ups?
- What is the best way of capturing and using data on all dimensions of natural capital in an integrated way across a small area?
This is just a sample of the thoughts and ideas generated by our workshops. We’ll pull together a more detailed set of ideas and proposals over the next few weeks and see what we can take forward as a Partnership over the coming year.
One year into our Partnership we can be proud of the impact the Green Halo vision is already starting to have across our area. However, there is much to do, from following through project ideas in their early stages of development to discussing how we can provide the capacity to maintain progress.
The Green Halo website is now live at www.greenhalo.org.uk. That will be where you can find out more about the Partnerships plans and ambitions, and contribute your own thoughts, ideas and examples of good practice.
Download Attendance List
Download Sustainable Living Presentation
Download HMG's 25 Year Environment Plan
Download Air Quality Presentation
Download Economy Presentation
Download Natural Capital & Health Presentation
by Simon Eden, XCX Consulting