A new £500,000 grant scheme has also been launched. Local authorities across Wales will be able to bid for a share of the money for projects to reduce air and noise pollution and develop tranquil green spaces.
The Minister was speaking to an audience of over 200 public body representatives at the Environment Matters? conference at Cardiff’s SWALEC stadium.
A number of urban areas across Wales will take part in the programme’s test phase and include Wrexham, Holyhead, Swansea and Cardiff.
The Minister said:
“During difficult economic times it can be tempting for governments and local authorities to focus on economic priorities and forget about environmental or social commitments.
“But in Wales, we believe that our economic, social and environmental wellbeing are intrinsically linked. You can’t sacrifice any one of these without impacting on all three. This is what our commitment to sustainable development recognises."
The Minister announced the bringing together of programmes to provide an integrated offer to communities and support wider and deeper local improvements. This approach will deliver a range of benefits such as skills development, jobs, volunteering opportunities and a greater sense of community.
Government funded development officers will meet local community groups, discuss how they would like to see their neighbourhoods improved and then work together to see what expertise and support can be used to realise this. A “one stop shop” approach will means delivering a more joined-up and stream-lined service. And the efficiencies this results in will allow Welsh Government officers to work with more communities.
The Minister continued:
“I am concerned that our poorest communities, and especially those living in urban areas, experience the worst quality local environments with fly tipping, litter, unsafe roads, high levels of pollution and lack of access to green space.
“I will be asking agencies funded by the Welsh Government, including the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, to work together on realising this ambitious objective.”