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Green infrastructure

Green spaces improve where we work, live and play. Trees and woodland are a vital component of what has become known as "Green Infrastructure" - a network of interconnected and multipurpose green areas. Trees and woodland contribute to a host of green infrastructure benefits - see notes (i) at bottom of page.

The roles of the Forestry Commission

  • To explain Government policy, particularly in relation to planning and development. The Sustainable Communities Plan sets the context for major growth and green infrastructure has a key role in the delivery of sustainable communities
  • To help optimise the role of trees and woodland in green infrastructure. In the East of England this role is explained in the Regional Woodland Strategy
  • To provide grants for the creation and management of wooded green space
  • To act as a centre of expertise, particularly on the regeneration of previously developed land
  • To create and manage (wooded) green space. The Forestry Commission has an excellent track record of providing larger areas of green space and manages more publicly accessible land in the region than any other organisation.

Latest news

  • A number of sub-regions now have "Green Infrastructure" or "Green Grid" masterplans - see notes (ii) at bottom of page
  • The Forestry Commission is working with the Department of Communities and Local Government on three forestry exemplar projects to demonstrate the important role trees, woodlands and forestry can play to support growth and tackle regeneration. One of these exemplars, under the Government’s new Growth Point initiative, will be based on Thetford in Norfolk - see notes (iii) at bottom of page
  • For other useful links go to notes (iv) at bottom of page


Contacts on green infrastructure in the East of England are:

Strategy and advocacy region-wide – Corinne Meakins 
Grant for woodland creation and management region-wide – Andrew Hoppit 
Delivery of (wooded) green space (by the Forestry Commission. A number of contractors and organisations are also available to undertake such work):
- in Beds and Cambs – Andy Medhurst
- in Norfolk and Suffolk – Mike Taylor 
- in Essex and Herts – Tristram Hilborn  


(i) Trees and woodlands as part of green infrastructure contribute to sustainable communities through:


  • the establishment of a green framework within which new development can take place with minimal visual intrusion;
  • through integrated planning, housing can be linked to informal recreation opportunities by providing safe and attractive settings for footpaths and cycleways, thus reducing the dependency on car travel;
  • high quality environments for businesses can be instrumental in attracting and retaining investment. Access to natural green surroundings can help reduce stress and improve productivity in the workplace;
  • regular moderate exercise in well-designed, accessible green space can lead to a reduction in heart disease and other physical illnesses, and improve psychological well being;
  • community engagement, cohesion and stability can be enhanced;
  • ecological services (such as carbon sinks, pollution control, air conditioning, microclimate control and flood prevention);
  • the opportunity to restore, enhance and re-create biodiversity habitats and assets;
  • greenspaces can connect urban residents to the natural world and bring wildlife to the doorstep;
  • and they can be used within Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDs) systems.


(ii) A number of sub-regions now have "Green Infrastructure" or "Green Grid" masterplans . Each identifies areas of deficiency where new green space would be of benefit.  

For the latest green space masterplans see:

(iii) Growth Points

The invitation to local authorities to bid for New Growth Point (NGP) status of December 2005 - part of the Government's response to Kate Barker's Review of housing supply - set out the next steps in tackling housing supply more widely than the existing Growth Areas, which were established in February 2003. A further announcement was made on 24th October 2006 confirming which local authorities the Department would be working with as NGP's. Other Government Departments and Agencies were fully involved in the assessment process to ensure each location could demonstrate that their growth plans were sustainable and deliverable, acceptable environmentally and realistic in terms of infrastructure.

As part of this process Henry Cleary (Head of Housing and Growth Programmes, CLG) met with Rod Leslie (Head of Programmes, Forestry Commission) in summer 2006 to identify overlaps in current policy and establish where both departments could work more closely together. This resulted in a proposal to develop three of the NGP's into forestry exemplar projects to demonstrate the important role trees, woodlands and forestry can play to support growth and tackle regeneration. This proposal also neatly supports the Government's wider interest in the development and delivery of Green Infrastructure Strategies to support Sustainable Communities Plan objectives by seeking to provide a step change in the way that forestry is considered and embedded into growth plans from the outset.

Three locations have been selected in consultation with the Forestry Commission these are Thetford, Burton-upon Trent and South Hampshire (PUSH). Each of these locations presents a slightly different challenge in terms of regeneration and growth, which is reflected in the way these locations have historically delivered green infrastructure and forestry, therefore the starting point will be different in each case. It is also an opportunity to look to the future to understand how these locations should respond to ensure green infrastructure remains at the heart of their growth plans. Opportunities will be also be explored to raise the bar in terms of delivery and seek to share these experiences with other growth locations.

(iv) CABE Space & Cleaner Safer Greener

Last updated: 24th September 2014