Giving people the power to take action

Yesterday we set out the Conservative Quality of Life agenda.

Alongside devolving power and protecting our civil liberties, a new Conservative Government will make it easier for local people to create new green spaces, parks and allotments, and help enable schools, charities and local groups plant new trees to green their communities.

Trees are not only great to look at: they provide shade and cooling, reduce noise pollution, improve air quality and help to prevent flooding.

So a Conservative Government will introduce an England-wide tree planting scheme, in which communities will be given funding to plant around 700,000 new trees each year, equivalent to one tree for every child born in England each year.

Quality of life measures like this are intrinsic to modern conservatism. We know how much difference they can make to how people feel about where they live and work.

Take allotments: demand has soared in recent years, and with the right support, these self-grow initiatives can spring up in the most unlikely places. Last week, I joined Rosie Boycott, the Chair of London Food, and Joanne Cash, our Parliamentary Candidate in Westminster North, in a visit to an Edgware Road housing estate.

There, on a small triangle of tarmac, a vibrant urban allotment has been created, where local residents tend their plants and vegetables in grow bags. It happened thanks to the leadership of a dedicated volunteer and a grant from Boris Johnson's Capital Growth project, the Mayor's scheme to create 2,012 new food growing spaces for London by 2012.

The effect on the community of this small initiative has been immense: the site has become a social hub on the estate, bringing together diverse communities and restoring pride and purpose to the area. The neighbourhood is cleaner and feels safer.

With great ideas like these, creating green spaces and planting trees, we can provide more opportunities for people to come together and improve their neighbourhood. This is what the Big Society is about: giving power to people and communities to take action.

Christopher N Howarth