Leeds City Council’s executive board will consider a 10-year strategy next week which will set out the ambition for the city to have the best parks and green spaces in the UK.

The strategy, to be discussed at the meeting of senior councillors held at Leeds Civic Hall on Wednesday 15 December, will outline a commitment to provide good quality parks and green spaces across the city that are welcoming, accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

A bold target of planting 50 hectares of woodland per year for the next decade is also to be considered in the strategy which will work towards tackling the climate emergency. 50 hectares is the equivalent to 90 football pitches and amounts to over two million trees being planted over the 10-year period. The strategy also sets out a commitment to creating more wildflower meadows and other habitats to allow wildlife to flourish in the city.

Over 45 million adults visit Leeds’ parks annually and a consultation carried out across the city found that 90 per cent of respondents were satisfied with them. However, respondents also said they would like to see more wildlife and climate-friendly parks, more visitor facilities (such as cafes, playgrounds and sports facilities) and improved access to them.

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for public health and active lifestyles, said: “Being able to spend time outside in our beautiful parks and green spaces was a much-needed lifeline for many people during the coronavirus pandemic. Having somewhere to visit and be around nature and greenery has major benefits, not only for our mental health but also our physical health, which is why the commitment to ensuring all our communities have access to quality parks and green spaces is so important.

“As we look beyond the pandemic, we want our parks to become go-to locations to host an array of diverse and interesting activities and events for adults and children of all different backgrounds to enjoy. We want people to feel encouraged to come together to join our valued volunteers and community groups like ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Friends of’ whose support in maintaining, improving and promoting our parks and green space is invaluable.

“As part of the strategy, we will consider a bold target of planting 50 hectares of woodland per year, this will work towards achieving the council’s ambitions of reducing carbon, improving air quality and achieving carbon neutral status by 2030.”

Eight key priorities have been identified as part of the 10-year strategy which include:

  • Quality- Providing high quality parks and green spaces.
  • Climate and Biodiversity- Increasing wildlife and biodiversity and reducing the impact of climate change.
  • Access for All- Ensuring that parks and green spaces are accessible to everyone.
  • Culture- Providing exciting, diverse, interesting and enjoyable green spaces that reflect the history and culture of their local communities.
  • Child-Friendly- Providing green spaces that children and teenagers love to visit.
  • Working with Communities- Having a positive, open, helpful and collaborative approach to delivering the Parks and Countryside service.
  • Financial Sustainability- Ensuring that good quality public green space is available for the long term.
  • Health and Wellbeing- Providing a wide range of opportunities for people to get the health benefits of spending time in green spaces.