Environmental coalition wants new mayors to 'green' city regions

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New metro mayors must take urgent action to "green" their city regions, a coalition of environmental organisations has urged.

The mayors, being elected for the first time in six city regions on Thursday, should use their powers to tackle air pollution, improve public transport, ensure housing is developed on brownfield land and boost green spaces, they said.

A report on opportunities for metro mayors includes a green city regions index revealing each area's strengths and weaknesses on issues from air quality and the natural environment to protecting built heritage.

Metro mayors will control a single transport budget, which will allow them to invest in green public transport, walking, cycling and electric vehicle infrastructure, boost bus provision and introduce smart ticketing, the report said.

The index found that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough city region has the highest car use and lowest bus use of the six areas, despite high cycling rates, while the West Midlands was doing best on low car use.

Tees Valley has 19 times more charging points for electric vehicles than Liverpool City region, the report revealed.

All the regions fail to comply with European legal limits for nitrogen oxides, it said.

For housing, where metro mayors will control spatial planning, they should prioritise development on brownfield land.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has a low level of development on brownfield site, at 44%, compared to Greater Manchester's 65%, though it does best on protecting its built heritage.

The report also suggests city regions should prioritise investment in high-quality open spaces for recreation for health and well-being, and identify where nature needs protection.

Liverpool City region currently spends the most per person on open spaces at £28 a head, compared to just £10 per head a year in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The West Midlands performs worst on recycling, at just 32% of waste, and on home energy efficiency, with just 27% of houses getting the best energy performance ratings.

The coalition calling for the metro mayors to green their regions is made up of the Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and Green Alliance.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph said metro mayors should use their powers and funding to improve public transport and tackle air pollution.

"Investment in better buses, walking and cycling, and stronger controls on polluting cars and trucks, will transform people's lives and the success of their cities."

Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, said the mayors had an opportunity to focus on the quality and location of housing as well as numbers of new homes.

"New homes should be built as far as possible on suitable brownfield sites, near jobs and existing transport links.

"In this way we can both save countryside and make our towns and cities exciting and sustainable places to live," he said

Stephen Trotter, of the Wildlife Trusts, said the mayors could help nature thrive and improve city dwellers' health by making their regions greener and better places to live and work.