Sheffield urged to step up to maintain its green space

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Sheffield must find new ways of paying for and maintaining its green spaces to keep its environmental credentials - and moving around by bike, public transport and on foot needs to be much easier, an inquiry has found.

The Sheffield Green Commission was set up as an independent body, allowing leaders from across the public and private sectors to make sure environmental and sustainability issues are pushed higher up the agenda over the next 20 years.

Evidence was gathered during hearings over 12 months, and now a final report with recommendations has been published.

The document focuses on four priorities - transport, energy, learning, and Sheffield’s standing as a ‘green city’.

The report says that local rivers, canals, woodland, moorland and parks need to be ‘understood and valued’, and that progress is already being made with ‘re-greening’ the city centre. But it adds: “The city needs a solution and new financial models for maintenance of its existing green space and waterways if it is to retain the level of provision and promote the city as an attractive place for people to live, work, play and visit.”

All large new building developments need to contain ‘quality green space’, and the council should consider the benefits the Green Belt provides when deciding where to build housing.

Public transport should be more ‘convenient, comfortable and affordable’ than private vehicles, and bicycles must be given space to be carried on trams and trains.

Cycling infrastructure has to support new, beginner and less confident riders, offering ‘pleasant routes without unnecessary detours’.

Ultra-low emission vehicles should be made available through car clubs as ‘occasional use’ options for business and leisure. Traffic will flow freely without congestion in and around Sheffield, the report says, if roads are predominantly given over to buses, trams and bikes.

“As a consequence of these interventions Sheffield’s air quality improves to the point where it is well below the European Health Limit,” the report says. Sheffield is making improvements through its devolution deal with the Government - which includes a long-term transport budget, and control of the local bus network - the proposed HS2 station, tram-trains between the city centre and Rotherham, and Sheffield University’s bike hire scheme.

A new £10 million Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, also led by the university, is cited as an example of how learning can contribute to a more sustainable future.

“The ideas and recommendations that have been put forward are all achievable in the medium-term,” the report concludes. ‘Collective commitment and action from across the city’ is needed, it says, adding: “No one organisation can do this alone.”

The commission was chaired by Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for housing.