Animation: WATG http://www.watg.com/london-national-park-city-green-block/
Could Fleet Street in central London be turned into ‘green boulevard’? The architecture practice WATG have teamed up with “guerrilla geographer” Daniel Raven-Ellison (who is leading the campaign to have London declared the world’s first city national park) to explore the idea of greening the city using green building blocks .
“The mission of this campaign is to create a city where people and nature are more connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable.”
Following a meeting withDaniel Raven-Ellison the WATG Landscape Architecture team were inspired to contribute to this socially important initiative in the Capital. Led by Demet Karaoglu, Senior Project Landscape Architect, the team challenged themselves to an internal innovation competition and the ‘Green Block’ was born.
“It’s safe to say that we can all now envision a future with driverless, electric cars and that translates to fewer cars on the road and fewer car parks and car lanes,” said John Goldwyn, Vice President, WATG. “The Green Block claws back space from the roads and returns it to the people of London.”
The team at WATG have developed the ‘Green Block’ – a maintenance-free modular, living building material permeated with native wildflower seeds and containing its own irrigation reservoir. The website explains that Green Blocks can be used in creative ways to enhance the natural biodiversity of London by:
- Reclaiming expanses of tarmac and space made available by redundant roads and car parks, following the rise of autonomous and shared vehicle and bicycle schemes in the Capital;
- Adding greenery to existing cafes and shopfronts whilst cleaning and filtering the city air and creating a more aesthetically-desirable city-scape;
- Cladding buildings and hoarding construction sites;
- Delineating and augmenting cycling routes;
- Connecting the city’s existing parks;
- Allowing residents and property owners in the Capital to create their own urban allotments, replacing concrete front gardens and providing ecological corridors for the city’s native wildlife such as invertebrates, small mammals and raptors.
For further information on greening the city read Arup: Cities Alive – Rethinking green infrastructure and Cities Alive Workshop video launch.
Note: The animation of Fleet Street was designed by WATG for visualisation and conceptual purposes only; to show how the prototype ‘Green Block’ could be used within an urban environment. The ‘Green Block’ is a landscape architecture concept that was developed purely to explore how design can innovate and contribute to a greener future.
As city populations grow, urban trees cannot be viewed as a luxury: Trees are an essential component of a livable community and a core strategy for improving public health.
The Nature Conservancy in America has just released its latest report, ‘Funding Trees for Health – An Analysis of Finance and Policy Actions to Enable Tree Planting for Public Health’ and it states that scientific case for the benefits of trees and urban nature has become more solid over the last few decades. The report focuses on the links between trees and public health stating that recent science shows that the link is robust and economically significant. The central question of this report asks: If trees are so important for health, how can cities use innovative finance and policy tools to enable tree planting for public health?
Despite the large literature on the many benefits provided by street trees and other natural features, U.S. cities are experiencing declines in urban forest cover. New tree planting isn’t keeping pace with the mortality of existing trees, either from natural causes or from clearing of trees for new development. If trees provide so many benefits, why are cities letting this natural resource dwindle away?
The report identifies four main barriers preventing cities from fully seizing the power of street trees and other natural features:
- Lack of knowledge: Decision-makers and the public may lack knowledge of the benefits trees provide. For cities willing to invest time and resources, urban forestry science and tools have advanced enough that it is possible to estimate the benefits that current (or future) street trees provide to residents. To systematically planning urban forestry activities to achieve multiple ecosystem service objectives can be found in The Sustainable Urban Forest: A Step-by-Step Approach, developed by the US Forest Service and The Davey Institute.
- Public concerns: There are public concerns about potential negative problems with trees, such as problems with fallen limbs causing power outages, or trees and untended parks providing spaces for criminal activity. Concerns can often be alleviated by better urban forestry practices or public education campaigns. The report suggests following the Arbor Day Foundation’s Right Tree, Right Place best practices.
- Silos: The responsibility to advance tree planting often falls on one municipal agency, such as a Forestry Office within a city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. As a result, it can be difficult for cities to efficiently identify and harness all tree planting opportunities that might be presented by the on-the-ground work of different municipal agencies. Cooperative planning processes are one way to overcome this barrier.
- Lack of financial resources: Trees are often considered a “nice to have” item compared to other critical municipal needs such as police and fire protection, education, roads, and other public services. This combined with the budget cycle of cities leaves tree planting programs minimally funded. Finally, there is lack of funding for urban forestry, caused by constrained urban budgets and cities prioritizing urban forestry budgets relatively low compared with other priorities. Budgets to support a healthy tree canopy are further strained by a lack of funding for maintenance.
The investment gap: How much more investment in trees is needed need to maintain current urban canopy and then significantly expand it to seize greater potential health benefits. The report estimates that an additional investment of around $8 per person annually would be enough to create this green future in US cities. A green urban future is not an impossible dream, but is quite affordable, if policymakers and others decide to make this investment.
The last section of the report describes some specific solutions that can enable tree planting for public health. The solution that will work will vary by city, but what matters is giving value—financial and moral—to the benefits that trees provide to health.
The report discusses some methods commonly used by cities to try to break silos by linking urban forestry to other municipal goals. These can include planning processes such as sustainability or comprehensive plans, heat action planning or planning related to compliance with existing policy such as the Clean Water Act. The report discusses common financial mechanisms for urban forestry, such as funding from public revenues, municipal codes and policies, and partnerships with companies and NGOs. The report suggests a possible way to overcome the funding barrier may be to more closely link the goals and funding of the health sector with the goals and funding of urban forestry agencies. If trees have significant benefits to physical and mental health then why not consider a link between health funding and urban forestry?
The concept of linking finance streams for nature and health seems simple. Those whose mission it is to plant and maintain trees and other urban vegetation spend money and resources to make urban areas greener, which delivers significant benefits for mental health. This helps those in the health sector better achieve their mission of improving people’s health and well-being. To complete the circle, therefore, the health sector (whether public or private institutions) could supply some financial resources that help partially pay for the activities of those in the urban forestry sector.
It has been estimated that there may be up to three million brownfield sites across Europe. Sustainable brownfield regeneration involves making abandoned, underused, derelict and on occasions contaminated, land fit for a new long-term use in order to bring long-lasting life back to the land and the community it lies within.
The European Commission’s Science for Environment Policy (2013) Thematic Issue on Brownfield Regeneration concludes that brownfield remediation and regeneration offers the opportunity to prevent the loss of uncorrupted countryside and may enhance urban spaces and remediate contaminated soils. The EC’s soil sealing guidelines advocate that even temporarily converting brownfield sites into urban greenspace and recreation areas is beneficial.
Brownfield sites – often within urban areas with good transport and infrastructure – make competitive alternatives to greenfield investments. Perceived contamination can often make them less appealing for development. Also consider brownfields sites resulting from the worldwide financial crisis — from commerce, housing, infrastructure and tourism. In these cases, contamination is not problematic.
While national planning policy may help ensure that new developments are focused on brownfield land, local governments are best placed to provide locally relevant incentives to encourage redevelopment of brownfield sites. These might include subsidised insurance, development fees waivers or property tax reduction to reduce risks for investors.
At the European level, the European Regional Development Fund is the main source of financial support. Authorities in Member States can also set up revolving funds via the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA). Developers obtain low-interest funds and the interest they pay flows back into the fund pool.
Atkinsons et al. (2014) suggest that the practice of regenerating a site can also create social and environmental benefits but warn against assuming that benefits will simply arise as a result of completing a project. The objectives of regeneration activity and the practices required to meet them may not be directly correlated. Through a workshop exercise a model was developed that presents the logic model demonstrating what needs to be considered to improve the project delivery planning process, signposting the steps required to translate project objectives into outcomes, to optimise social and environmental benefits delivered during and after regeneration.
Bartke and Schwarze (2015) emphasised that land management and in particular decisions between greenfield and brownfield development must trade-off different stakeholder, societal and ecological demands. Balancing development and conservation goals is not easy. Their paper concludes controversially that there are no perfect support tools for land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields and that to be meaningful the user requirements of decision makers must take precedence over those of other interest groups in the design of sustainability assessment tools (SATs).
In the longer term, developers and planners need to recognise that all new construction is essentially temporary and we therefore need to plan for its second life. The Regions for Economic Change Conference (2010) Re-using Brownfield Sites and Buildings Workshop report recommends the following
- Empowering citizens, environmental groups and all parts of civil society is important to ensure that policy makers take account of different stakeholder perspectives when considering brownfield development.
- The need to encourage city and regional authorities to prioritise brownfield sites in relation to economic realities.
- Explore how the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can encourage through its provisions, conditions and incentives the development and redevelopment of more compact, sustainable and cohesive cities
- encourage transnational exchange of practice and encourage mutual learning between local and regional authorities across Europe
- Use an integrated approach to urban development in its various forms by:
- combining land uses,
- bringing together different capital and revenue expenditure,
- combining European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF)
- balancing economic, environmental and social development.
Atkinson, G., Doick, K.J., Burningham, K. and France, C. (2014) Brownfield regeneration to green space: Delivery of project objectives for social and environmental gain. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening (13): 586–594
Bartke, S. and Schwarze, R. (2015) No perfect tools: Trade-offs of sustainability principles and user requirements in designing support tools for land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields. Journal of Environmental Management (153): 11–24
Ramsden, P. (2010) Re-using Brownfield Sites and Buildings. Report of the Regions for Economic Change Conference, 21 May 2010. Workshop Report. AcSS. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/archive/conferences/ sustainable-growth/doc/rfec_brownfield_en.pdf
Research: Hoyle, H., Hitchmough,J. and Jorgensen, A. ‘Attractive, climate-adapted and sustainable? Public perception of non-native planting in the designed urban landscape.’ Landscape and Urban Planning Volume 164, August 2017, Pages 49–63
- 75.3% participants positive about climate-adapted non-native planting.
- Climate change identified as major driver of acceptance of non-native plants.
- Acceptance also related to aesthetics, context, perceived invasiveness.
- Perceived attractiveness not related to perceived nativeness.
- Contradictions in perception of non-native plants identified
Throughout Europe climate change has rendered many plant species used in contemporary urban planting design less fit for use in public green spaces. A growing evidence base exists for the ecological value of introducing non-native species, yet urban policy and practice guidance continues to portray non-native species negatively, focusing on their assumed invasiveness. In this context there is a lack of research focusing on the cultural relevance of non-native species in the urban landscape.
This research surveyed 1411 members of the UK public who walked through designed and semi-natural planting of three levels of visual nativeness: “strongly native”; “intermediate” and “strongly non-native”, whilst completing a site-based questionnaire. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were then carried out with 34 questionnaire participants. A majority of respondents would be happy to see more non-native planting in UK public spaces, rising to 75.3% if it were better adapted to a changing climate than existing vegetation. Respondents recognised the three broad levels of nativeness, yet this was not a factor driving perceptions of the attractiveness of the planting. In addition to climate change, four key factors were identified driving acceptance and rejection of non-native planting: aesthetics; locational context; historic factors and inevitability; and perceptions of invasiveness and incompatability with native wildlife.
The research indicates that in the context of changing climate, focus should be placed on the potentially positive role of non-invasive, climate-adapted, aesthetically pleasing species within urban planting schemes as these could be well-received by the public.
Conclusions and implications for policy and practice
This is the first large scale study of UK public attitudes to non-native planting in the context of a changing climate. Findings show that when walking through an area of planting at the human experiential scale people recognised broad categories of “nativeness” relating to the three levels established on the gradient from strongly native to strongly non-native. In contrast present urban biodiversity conservation policy the majority of participants said they would be happy to see an increase in non-native planting in UK parks and gardens. Aesthetically, strongly non-native planting was perceived as the most colourful, attractive and interesting of the three levels of “nativeness”. It was perceived as offering the greatest benefit to invertebrates. Immediate reactions to planting appeared to be driven by species specific aesthetics and “nativeness” per se was not a consideration when people assessed the attractiveness of an area of planting.
Reservations about the potential invasiveness of non-native species and their assumed incompatibility with native invertebrates were expressed clearly by interviewees who held strongly biocentric values and might have been more aware of policy discourse than the public at large. Climate change was, however, identified as a powerful force driving people’s acceptance of climate-adapted Mediterranean planting.
Most of the original walks took place in publicly accessible but institutionally owned gardens where visitors had an existing interest in horticulture and cultivated non-native plants, or in public spaces where local residents and site users enjoyed spending time in outdoor green spaces. The questionnaires and interviews were carried out exclusively with the users of these spaces. Self-selecting interviewees were particularly biocentric, so generalisation of their views to those of the wider population requires caution.
This work suggests there is a schism between sustainable urban policy that sees a future involving only native plant species and what members of the public believe and value. Far from expressing hostility to non-native species, in a UK context most people appear to welcome the use of non-invasive non-native planting in urban public spaces, whilst at the same time having some understanding of the risks as well as the benefits. If key long term goals of sustainable urban planting are to increase human well-being and to maximise support value for native animal biodiversity, at a time of climate change, this will not be best achieved by policy which appears to be at odds with the beliefs and values of the average urban citizen. There is a need to reflect these values more conspicuously in more nuanced urban landscape policy and practice.
The Landscape Institute funded a trip to Minnesota, USA for PhD researcher, Dawn Purves, here at the School of Architecture and Landscape, Kingston University. Dawn is a graduate of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and has a MA Sustainable Place Making and Urban Design. She is a practicing landscape architect with a particular interest in sustainable water management and urban design. At present Dawn is writing her PhD in relation to Ecological Citizenship in identifying the constraints to and acceptance of ecological solutions to environmental problems and in particular flooding events.
Reflecting on her research and the conference, Dawn discusses community resilience and the ways in which low-impact sustainable urban drainage as a means of preventing localised flooding can be encouraged at multiple scales as climate change adaptation. The following report of her experience is courtesy of LI website:
Dawn presented aspects from her PhD research illustrating the scope for broad Ecological Citizenship to facilitate low-impact sustainable urban drainage through re-framing issues, facilitating solutions through active participatory social learning engagement and motivating collective responsibility and actions.
The focused was environmental decision-making: in particular how to inform decisions in a changing climate, and the role of motivating people to take more responsibility for global complex issues such as localised flooding, increasing populations and altered lifestyle patterns due to population migrations, causing densification and reductions in permeable surfaces that leads to increased instances of flooding. Dawn’s talk illustrated various roles where citizens could be encouraged to be involved in the process of planned climate change adaptation to localised flood prevention and in particular drew upon current research undertaken with Transition Cambridge in establishing a Learning to Stay Dry ‘Community of Practice’ sub-group, one that aims to facilitate a grass roots bottom-up engagement communication to the complex issues around flooding.
The conference illustrated wider research that is looking at the roles of environmental identity and participation success, exploring how identities alter through the lifetime of the project, a key attribute of my research. It also illustrated the role of ‘learning by doing’ or ‘learning from others’ through communities of volunteers undertaken at micro and macro levels, illustrating ‘groupiness’ of the project and its effect in influencing social norms (again aligning my research) which looks at the role and scope of social learning in overturning apathy and lack of responsibility to flood prevention in favour of LISUD, and fostering ecological norms. Finally, it looked at ‘framing’ and the way the issues are framed, illustrating how rhetoric presentation determines desired outcomes.
The research: a brief overview
Evidence (base-adaptation.eu, 2015) points to small-scale bottom-up actions being important in flood prevention. However empirical work carried out by Transition Cambridge sub-group ‘Learning to stay dry’ and other recent literature (Somerville & Hassol, 2011) point to indifference. Column inches and top-down action follow large-scale disaster – but small-scale prevention is a ‘Cinderella’ relative.
Flooding is increasingly seen as a significant problem around the world, costing billions each year to rectify. The causes of flooding are well known. These include increased populations, and population migrations, which cause densification and losses of permeable surfaces, and ‘global weirding’ (Lovins, 2002), where altered rainfall patterns lead to instances of heavy rain.
‘Super-wicked’ problems (Lazarus, 2010) such as climate change have become a significant problem in our cities causing increased property and neighbourhood flooding. If flooding is to be tackled in a sustainable way and increased community resilience as called for by the European Water Framework Directive 2015, putting the citizen back at the forefront of sustainability; then each of us needs to refocus our behaviour rather than being reliant on over stretched Local Government Authorities of Municipalities to solve those issues for us. Current legislation in the UK recommends maintaining pre-development flow-off rates for all new developments through a promotion of both hard-engineered solutions and green sustainable urban drainage measures. These measures are enforced and guided through the planning system. But in parts of the world where these regulations and controls are less evident, or within existing urban areas flooding is still unresolved. In these areas, community resilience is vital. Many local organisations exist which bring communities together to resolve specific issues, such as residents’ associations, transition groups, business investment districts (BID) and flood groups.
This research looks at which is more successful at lessening localised flooding and demystifying water management to increase community resilience. Either top-down approaches of legislation, policy, taxation and incentivisation, or bottom-up grass roots broad ecological citizenship. Community resilience is defined as ‘The ability of community members to take meaningful, deliberate, collective action to remedy the impact of a problem, including the ability to interpret the environment, intervene, and move on.’ (Pfefferbaum, 2005). Broad ecological citizenship is a concept that we are all an integral part of our environment, recognition that our future depends on how we care for our ecosystems, and a sense of responsibility that lead to action on behalf of the environment.
The proposition of the research is that issues surrounding flooding that currently restrict engagement and motivation could be re-framed around broad ecological citizenship and a moral judgement system focusing on our values, beliefs and attitudes, so that citizens could be motivated into taking more collective responsibility towards devising appropriate low impact sustainable urban drainage measures. It proposes that a different approach to communication is needed drawing on the wider issues associated with climate change, identification, social justice, ecological footprints and ecosystem services. By communicating the issues through active participatory social learning within ‘communities in practice’, meaningful participatory planning could occur. Through surveys and focus group interviews undertaken for this research in 3 different flood-prone areas across the UK these ‘communities of practice’ – ‘groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better’ (Lave & Wenger, 1991). can also play a further role in facilitating and motivating community resilience, enabling practitioners to take collective responsibility for managing the knowledge they need.
Can the profession adapt in light of these findings?
Flooding affects us all. In the UK, we have recently witnessed devastating examples of flooding from the Somerset levels in the winter 2013-2014 to Penrith in Cumbria in the winter of 2015-16. But this is not only affecting the UK, with many instances around the world re-emphasizing the urgent need for action. With changes in climate and global warming it is not enough to wait for the next flood, we need to undertake greater planned adaptation measures in the form of retrofit low impact sustainable urban drainage.
Transition Cambridge, Property Level Chelsea Fringe Raingarden. © Dawn Purves 2016
These measures have been seen to be effective, but are currently not being installed in great enough numbers to have significant effect. As Landscape Architects and built environment professionals we have great opportunities to promote these measures, both on new developments and existing areas being regenerated.
Current policy facilitates participation in decision making through the Localism agenda and the Flood and Water Management Act via the promotion of community flood groups. If more of these LISUD measures are to be implemented rather than hard engineered solution, measures that demystify water management and provide better collective understandings around the issues and solutions, then Landscape Architects need to facilitate greater collective responsibility for planned adaptation and in particular at a grass roots bottom up level, through property, street and neighbourhood level LISUD measures as seen at Cloudburst Copenhagen, Rainproof Amsterdam and Climate proof Zoho, Rotterdam.
It is no longer acceptable to assume others will protect us, either financially or morally. We all need to do our bit, and as Landscape Architects we are ideally placed both to motivate community groups and local organisations to understand the issues around super wicked problems and, via active participatory social learning with stakeholders, develop LISUD solutions that provide a legacy for future generations.
To read further information on work connected to Dawn’s PhD research read – Influencing “social norms”: promoting climate change adaption to minimize flooding
- Somerville, R.C.J and Hassol, S.J., 2011. Communicating The Science of Climate Change, [Online] Available at:< https://www.climatecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Somerville-Hassol-Physics-Today-2011.pdf >[Accessed 10 December 2014].
- Lave, J & Wenger, E., 1991. Situated Learning. Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Lazarus, R.J., 2010. Super Wicked Problems and Climate Change: Restraining the Present to Liberate the Future, [Online] Available at:<http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1152&context=facpub> [Accessed 20 January 2013].
- Pfefferbaum, B. J. et al., 2005. Building Resilience to Mass Trauma Events. In L. S. Doll, S.E. Bonzon, J.A. Mercy & D. A . Sleet, eds., Handbook on Injury and Violence Prevention Intervention. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
The Rías Baixas are a series of four estuarine inlets located on the southwestern coast of Galicia, Spain. The northernmost Rías Baixas is located south of Cape Finisterre while the southernmost rias borders the Portuguese coast. The capital is the city of Pontevedra and its urban layout and development reflects the physical conditions of the surrounding landscape and territory – in this case focused around the rias or estuary. Pontevedra, a millennial city, has become more recently a model of urbanism and urban design reinventing itself with its citizens as protagonists and led by its pioneering mayor, Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores. Pontevedra has become a model for many cities where in just 15 years more than 70% of urban movement is now done on foot or by bicycle.
Pontevedra has been been trying to create a lasting and sustainable improvement to the urban environment of the city and has focused on raising the quality of all of its urban components. The city, under the leadership of Lores, identified the following key objectives:
- Drastically reduce air, noise and water pollution
- Achieve an inclusive city in which social class, physical or disability barriers, by age, sex or any other diversity are mitigated or eliminated.
- Eliminate the dangers of traffic and enhancing non-motorized mobility, reversing priorities and placing foot-travel as a central element of urban mobility.
- Convert the city’s urban public spaces into social spaces – a city of ‘integrated plural uses’
- Promote the autonomy of children and their integration into urban life
C02 emissions in the urban centre have been reduced by 88% and traffic related injury has been drastically reduced with no deaths or serious injuries recorded. In addition, public spaces and green areas, as well as pedestrian and bicycle paths have added to the rehabilitation of the city’s historic centre. As a result of this Pontevedra received the UN Habitat Award in 2015, which recognises the policies implemented by the city and that these as examples of best practices that can be copied by other cities around the world. The successes of Pontevedra have been recognized in terms of innovation, urban quality and social inclusion and as such it is seen as an example of a model city. Its urban planning model focuses on 7 key areas:
- City centre traffic closed thus reducing vehicle pollution in the urban area by 66%
- Reduction of the maximum speed to 30 km / h to achieve a calm and safe circulation
- 40 km of footpaths and cycling paths have been created near the rivers
- Eradication of wastewater discharges in rivers
- Recognition of its urban model as a transferable model,
- Policies developed to transform the city into an inclusive social city that allows people with physical disability to move smoothly throughout the city
- Pontevedra now considered a healthy city by the increase of green areas, places to practice sport, as well as its fluvial beach.
Commenting on the city’s transformation, the major, Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores said,
“Here there is a deep philosophy that is to know what is important in cities and for us this are the citizens, it is to build a city for people. There are others that are made for cars, for noise but we believe that public space has to be the continuity of your home and from there you start to make decisions”
Pontevedra was also awarded the INTERMODES prize in 2013 for developing the first European pedestrian map: “El Metrominuto”, that resulted from a policy of prioritizing pedestrian mobility. The map set out in graphic format the pedestrian network and provided an accessible and low-impact alternative for the citizens of Pontevedra and its tourists.
Metrominuto takes the form of a map, along the lines of a metro map, which shows information on walking distances and travel times between the main locations within the city. The well-being of pedestrians and people with reduced mobility is an important factor in terms of access to public and shared transport. By returning spaces in the city to pedestrians, citizens are once again able to take ownership of walking as the prime means of mobility. Pontevedra’s ‘Metrominuto’ walking map has been copied by many cities, including Paris, London and Florence.
This policy has not been universally accepted by the population of Pontevedra people who live in the outskirts or in nearby villages struggling with this issue. They say that parking areas created on the city’s outskirts are not big enough and that some are not safe or secure places to leave your car.
The town hall of Pontevedra is looking to adapt and modulate its strategy to be able to extend its model to the edge and the periphery and to achieve balanced regional development through the next set of urban planning initiative:
- Extension and adaptation of the people-centered urban transformation model: extending it to the peripheral neighbourhoods and the areas of medium density that surrounds the compact city – to create a city better connected with its peri-urban environment, to achieve more friendly, comfortable, safe and accessible urban spaces and a high urban quality that meet the standards reached in the central grid of the city.
- To achieve a balance between natural and cultural heritage and commitments on climate change
- To achieve further economic and social cohesion
Jordi Pascual I Ruiz, the author of ‘Culture & Urban Regeneration: Cultural Activities & Creative Industries – A Driving Force for Urban Regeneration. Conclusions on the physical dimension’ discusses conditions for European city urban planning quoting François Ascher in his paper, ‘Les nouveaux principes de l’urbanisme. La fin des villes n’est pas à l’ordre du jour’ (2001) where he suggests urban planning projects should give priority to solutions rather than stick to the rigidity of regulations, adapt cities to a more diverse society and evolve from spatial specialisation to an interconnected multipurpose and complex urban realm.
You may also be interested in reading ‘Cities Alive: Towards a walking world’ – the latest Cities Alive report is a collaboration between Arup’s Foresight + Research + Innovation, Transport Consulting and Urban Design teams. The report discusses the benefits of walkable cities – economic, social, environmental and political – and sets out measures for improving walkability, illustrating these by case studies.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a new £9 million fund to create and improve green spaces and encourage more tree planting in London. The Mayor wants to make London the first National Park City with a target of making 50 per cent of the city green by 2050. To do this, his ambition is to plant more trees, restore our rivers, create natural play-spaces for children and green routes to encourage walking and cycling. The first commitment towards this is the Greener City Fund, a grant programme to support boroughs, local communities and environmental organisations to plant more trees and improve our green spaces.
Previous assessments of London’s green spaces have indicated that about 47 per cent of London is green space. This includes: parks and amenity space; the countryside and farmland in London’s green belt; nature reserves; and private gardens. About 20 per cent of London is covered by trees, mostly as integral parts of the city’s green spaces. It also includes trees in streets and other urban parts of the city.
Khan asserts that well-designed green spaces should be multifunctional and offer a range of benefits that support the needs of a growing population. Yet there are many parts of London, especially in densely populated or deprived areas, where Londoners lack green space or have little tree cover. Greening these areas can provide many benefits, including: improving health and wellbeing; providing space for recreation and cultural activities; adapting to climate change; and creating habitat for wildlife.
A City for All Londoners sets out the Mayor’s plans to improve London. The policy document states that London ‘must develop to accommodate more people, jobs and activity. It must also adapt to the increasing threats from climate change. As such, it is vital both for the health and wellbeing of our citizens and for London’s economy to protect and enhance the environment.’
Making London a National Park City
The Mayor also wants to make London the first National Park City. This will be a way to promote his policies, proposals and projects on green infrastructure and give them a common identity. It is how he will engage Londoners and raise awareness about natural environment issues. The aim is to help Londoners make more use of London’s outdoors. It will also encourage them to help green London, whether by gardening for wildlife, volunteering to plant trees, or installing green roofs.
The Mayor’s National Park City programme will include:
- updating London Plan policies to protect green space and encourage greening of the urban environment, for example through green roofs
- support for boroughs and other land managers to help identify and promote the full economic value of London’s green infrastructure, to help build the case for essential investment and maintenance funding
- feeding into initiatives such as the Healthy Streets Approach, to ensure that the full potential of greening to enhance street space is realised
- a package of funding and advice – the Greener City Fund – to help boroughs, local communities, and environmental organisations run projects that plant more trees and improve London’s green spaces.
Greener City Fund
The Mayor has committed £9m to create and improve green spaces and encourage tree planting and management in London.
The Greener City Fund will include three specific elements:
- Strategic green infrastructure projects: the Mayor’s £3m of funding will support strategic green space improvements that will bring multiple environmental benefits. For example, river restoration in parks, which could provide flood water storage, new habitats for wildlife and improved space for play.
- London’s urban forest: City Hall will work with partner organisations, boroughs, Londoners and businesses on a range of projects to help plant and look after trees in London. The Mayor’s £3m of funding will help: create new woodlands; pilot new approaches to supporting tree planting in public space; improve data about London’s trees; and support London-wide projects.
- Community Tree Planting and Green Space Grants: over the next three years, the Mayor has committed £3m to help Londoners plant trees and make our city greener. These community grants will be offered in several rounds. They will involve community groups, charities, schools, boroughs and businesses in planting trees, and improving and increasing green space across London.