Urban areas in NW Europe are surrounded by the nearby countryside. This green space represents a massive potential resource for tackling the challenges our cities face. These include ageing populations, concerns about public health and the environment, and economic deprivation.

Green spaces outside cities are ideal places to start up new businesses, and to house sustainable production sites and infrastructure to keep people in the cities fed. They are also good places to locate hospitals and schools.

Sadly, city-based social networks and organisations, and government strategies often fail to make use of the green space right on their doorstep.

Attempts are sometimes made to address this imbalance, but these are often fragmented and suffer from a lack of co-ordination amongst different sectors.

Governments, city councils and businesses implement medium-term development processes which serve their own interests, but which fail to take other factors into account. They provide solutions to specific problems, but ignore the wider regional picture.

Today, there is a distinct urban-rural divide, and this makes coordinated action difficult. And with knowledge being so fragmented, building bridges is a slow process.