NATIONAL park chiefs have announced ambitious plans to ensure everyone in “crowded” Sussex has access to green space.

The South Downs National Park Authority says it is increasingly difficult to find tranquil nature spots in the county amid increasing housing development.

So it has pledged ambitious investment in “green infrastructure” across Sussex to boost residents’ health and link together green spaces in the county – an initiative dubbed the “people and nature network”.

Plans include tackling litter and graffiti in Brighton and coastal towns in a “green facelift” and launching a mass urban tree-planting programme to keep streets cool as temperatures rise due to climate change.

National park chairman Ian Phillips said the coronavirus pandemic had given residents a new appreciation of the value of nature.

“Now is the time to make the most of this renewed enthusiasm and start creating a better future for both people and nature,” he said.

The Argus: South Downs National Park Authority countryside management chief Andrew LeeSouth Downs National Park Authority countryside management chief Andrew Lee

Countryside management chief Andrew Lee said: “Our natural environment is sadly under threat from climate change and global biodiversity decline, together with the fact that we’re living in one of the most crowded parts of the UK.

“The people and nature network lays out our collective long-term ambition to promote more green infrastructure.

“That could be creating a wildflower meadow in an urban area, improving the greenery along a canal, laying a hedgerow or planting more street trees.”

A park authority report published alongside the plan notes deprived communities are not likely to have access to green spaces and are more likely to have health problems.

“The effect of new development will be to make the situation worse for these communities,” the report read.

The Argus: The plan aims for a 'green recovery' in SussexThe plan aims for a 'green recovery' in Sussex

So park chiefs plan to boost green spaces along the Sussex coast to improve residents’ health, including creating “green zones” for large-scale tree planting.

The plans also include forming “green hit squads” to target graffiti and littering in parks and beauty spots.

And park rangers have pledged a “green facelift” for coastal towns to upgrade existing spaces and tackle graffiti and litter.

The report predicts rising temperatures across Sussex, increasing the risk of countryside fires.

But the park authority is also concerned about rising temperatures in towns and cities, known as “urban heating”.

So it has pledged to plant trees in parks, streets and other public areas to cool urban areas down and provide shade.

And in a bid to tackle air and noise pollution from cars, park chiefs plan to spruce up roads with plants.

The Argus: The masterplan aims to ensure everyone in Sussex has access to green space. Photo: Neil HulmeThe masterplan aims to ensure everyone in Sussex has access to green space. Photo: Neil Hulme

“Vegetation can filter gases and particulate matter and the addition of trees and greener areas can soften the visual impact of roads and help to reduce noise,” the report read.

It even hopes green roofs and walls adorned with plants could reduce noise and bring health benefits to urban residents.

The report identifies 12 areas in the national park in particular need of a “green recovery”.

One of those areas is the coastal stretch between Littlehampton and Newhaven, including Worthing, Shoreham, and Brighton.

It notes a number of threats to the towns, including coastal flooding and pressure to develop green spaces for housing.

So park chiefs have suggested a number of measures for the area, including using “green infrastructure” to reduce noise generated by the A27, the A259 seafront road and major town centre roads.

But South Downs countryside management director Mr Lee said the master plan aims to tackle a number of issues across the national park.

“Every bit of this interconnected green network plays its part in supporting wildlife and also our communities, whether that be through boosting the tourism economy or just being an uplifting space for people to enjoy the natural world,” he said.

“This plan aims to make space for nature in urban as well as rural environments and create links with the national park which already has over 1,000 nature conservation areas.

“The ethos behind this ambitious strategy is that nature is working invisibly, every day, to keep our environment healthy for both wildlife and people. Nature provides us with clean water, fresh air, food to eat, and tranquil places.”