Tagged: Green Infrastructure

New evaluation tools for biodiversity and sustainable drainage system assessment.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) could be improved for biodiversity and local people with the help of two new evaluation methods presented by a recent study. The methods, which assess the value of SuDS sites for wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, recreation and education, are described by the study’s authors as cost-effective, quick and reliable, and could help designers plan and retrofit SuDS that are wildlife-friendly and socially inclusive.

Source: Mak, C., Scholz, M., & James, P. (2016). Sustainable drainage system site assessment method using urban ecosystem services. Urban Ecosystems. DOI:10.1007/s11252-016-0593-6. This study is free to view at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11252-016-0593-6.

 

SuDS mimic nature to manage and treat storm water. There are various forms of SuDS which help prevent flooding and clean up contaminants; these include ponds, green roofs, artificial wetlands and absorbent pavements. The green infrastructure provided by SuDS is seen as an important way of helping EU Member States achieve good surface water status under the Water Framework Directive.

suds1

Fig 1. Rural conditions – impacts of urbanisation on a catchment. (Ciria)

In the UK, where this study was conducted, the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) has recently updated its influential SuDS manual (1), which provides guidance on the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of SuDS. This latest version promotes the design of SuDS design that provides a range of ecosystem services.

The evaluation methods presented by this study are intended to support this ecosystems-services approach (2). They can help designers understand and improve the value of a SuDS site. They also give designers a better understanding of which features (2) of a SuDS site provide which ecosystem services, to help guide new developments.

suds2

The first method considers which features provide biodiversity-related services, specifically habitat for wildlife and carbon sequestration. It is adapted from an existing method (3) and based on evidence that diverse vegetation, at various heights, is best for providing habitat. The method involves assessing which broad types of vegetation are present, such as trees and grasses, at which heights (e.g., upper canopy of a tree, low bush, long grass, cropped grass), and if there are any plants in water.

Designers can then give a SuDS site a score to indicate its potential for providing habitat and carbon ecosystem services. In general, points are given for every layer of vegetation (including aquatic plant species, if present). However, the method considers ecosystem disservices as well as services, and the scoring system deducts points for some layers; for example, cropped grass, which is unbeneficial for carbon sequestration. The presence of any built and impermeable layers at a site (e.g. concrete surface) also leads to points being deducted.

The second method considers which features contribute to recreational and educational ecosystem services. It assesses public accessibility to a site (both legal and physical), evidence of the site being used for educational purposes by community groups, educational signs, the distance to the nearest educational establishment, and recreational infrastructure (e.g. benches and footpaths). Again, ecosystem disservices are considered, so the presence of litter and dog faeces is also assessed, as well as bins, which help reduce these two problems. Each feature is scored on a scale of 0 to 3. Scores for recreational features and scores for educational features are combined separately to produce two total scores.

The researchers tested the two methods on 49 sites in and around the city of Manchester, UK. This revealed that large sites (over 5 500 m2) with permanent aquatic features such as ponds tended to be more capable of providing habitat and carbon sequestration services. Scores for habitat and scores for recreation were positively linked to each other. The researchers acknowledge that there is some subjectivity to the evaluation methods, but say that they provide the right balance of reliability, speed and cost-effectiveness.

Contact: miklas.scholz@tvrl.lth.se; m.scholz@salford.ac.uk

Footnotes:

  1. http://www.ciria.org/Resources/Free_publications/SuDS_manual_C753.aspx
  2. Scholz, M., Uzomah, V., Almuktar, S., Radet-Taligot, J. (2013). Selecting sustainable drainage structures based on ecosystem service variables estimated by different stakeholder groups. Water, 5:1741–1759. DOI:10.3390/w5041741.
  3. Tzoulas, K., James, P. (2009). Making biodiversity measures accessible to non-specialists: an innovative method for rapid assessment of urban biodiversity. Urban Ecosystems, 13: 113–127. DOI:10.1007/s11252-009-0107-x.

At Home with Nature: Encouraging biodiversity in new housing developments

The London Assembly’s  latest report, ‘At Home with Nature: Encouraging biodiversity in new housing developments’ published in Jan 2017, delivers the latest findings from the Housing Committee which scrutinises the Mayor’s role and record in delivering the private, social and affordable homes London needs.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.40.35.png

Summary

There is a risk that London will see its biodiversity being squeezed or reduced as planners and developers try to increase housing density in the city. Nature provides physical, mental, social, environmental and economic benefits for city dwellers, but both flora and fauna are rapidly decreasing in UK cities. The Mayor has an important role in ensuring biodiversity is enhanced and new habitats are created, as London attempts to tackle the housing crisis.

Biodiversity is part of national, regional and local planning policies. Collectively, these policies provide a good overall strategic vision for providing for nature in London. Unfortunately, these policies are not always translated at ground level.

Some European cities explicitly recognise the importance of green infrastructure and the environmental, social and economic benefits it provides. Several cities have introduced a planning tool called a ‘green factor’ or ‘green space factor’ (GSF) to ensure a minimum level of greenery in new developments. This planning tool has increased levels of green space and improved resilience to flooding and climate change impacts in these cities.

There are inconsistences at borough level when it comes to approving planning applications. This is due to lack of ecology expertise within planning departments and other pressures, for example housing target pressures, which can impact on the decisions of the authority. Funding cuts have reduced the capacity of planning departments.

Developers are sometimes uncertain of the steps needed to promote biodiversity and therefore the cost of doing so. The historic emphasis on protecting key species sometimes worries developers and mean some avoid biodiversity entirely. However, some developers clearly do value biodiversity on their sites and include biodiversity adaptations and green infrastructure where it is feasible. The inclusion of biodiversity and green infrastructure in a site has been shown to increase the chances of receiving planning permission with fewer conditions, positively affecting prices paid and speeding up the rate of sales.

This report explores the current situation and offers some potential solutions to ensure that London maintains and improves on its current levels of biodiversity, as it continues to grow and change.

Recommendations

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.47.15

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.48.01Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.48.45Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.49.32

London is still one of the greenest cities in the world but, in the rush to tackle the housing crisis, there is a risk that opportunities to protect and enhance local flora and fauna are being lost. In order to build the homes that London needs, a large proportion of these homes will be built on brownfield land and at higher densities. An increased housing density could lead to a more fragmented environment for nature, reducing biodiversity and access to nature for Londoners.

Although nature provides physical, mental, social, environmental and economic benefits for urban dwellers, both flora and fauna are rapidly decreasing in UK cities. The 2016 State of Nature report showed that, in the UK, 56 per cent of species are in decline and 7 per cent of urban species are threatened with extinction. For example, London’s hedgehog population has dropped by 50 per cent since 2000. This is a further concern for London government as nature can also improve the city’s resilience to climate change and can help mitigate issues associated with high density living, such as flooding and the urban heat island effect, thereby generating financial savings in the long term.

The Mayor has an important role in ensuring biodiversity is enhanced and new habitats are created. A large proportion of new homes will be built on public land and will be subject to Mayoral planning approval if they are of potential strategic importance to London. This means that the Mayor can, and should, push for higher requirements for biodiversity on these sites in order for planning permission to be granted.

References:

  • RSPB, 2016, The State of Nature
  • Written evidence from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • GLA, 2016, Mayoral planning powers

Does investment in green infrastructure provide economic returns?

Source: Vandermeulen, V., Verspecht, A., Vermeire, B. et al. (2011) The use of economic valuation to create public support for green infrastructure investments in urban areas. Landscape and Urban Planning. 103:198-206.

With increasing urbanisation and its subsequent negative effects on the environment, the need for green spaces is becoming increasingly recognised. Although it is difficult to define ‘Green infrastructure’, a network of open spaces, parks, waterways, trees and woodland that protect and enhance nature, and provide health and economic benefits, presents a possible solution to this problem. Decision makers need to know that investment in it will provide an economic return at both a regional and a community scale.

Using results from the EU VALUE project (1), the study produced a combined local-regional economic valuation model for assessing green infrastructure investment. At the project level, the study applied a cost-benefit analysis, using the concept of ‘Total Economic Value’, which attempts to capture the value of the different components of natural resources. Costs considered by this approach include land purchasing costs, design and construction costs and maintenance costs of the infrastructure, whilst benefits include production and regulating ecosystem services such as air quality improvement and climate change mitigation, as well as improved health from cycling, reduced accident risks, as well as recreational benefits. At the regional level, a ‘multiplier analysis’ was used, based on an input-output approach to consider not only the positive impact on local industry, but also on wages and the subsequent impact from better wages and job creation on the regional economy.

To illustrate how this two-tier model could be applied, the researchers used a case study of a proposed green cycle route in Bruges, Belgium, which is expected to lead to a 5% increase in cyclists. The example represents only a few aspects of multi-functional green infrastructure – an approach which is aimed at directly improving ecosystem health and resilience and contributing to conserving biodiversity (2). But it represents a type of project that contributes to the health and welfare of urban dwellers and brings environmental benefits to urban areas. Values were calculated for a 20 year timeframe. Examples of costs at the project-level were the construction of the bicycle road, indirect costs arising from tax increases and lost opportunity costs owing to farmers giving up land.

Evaluated benefits included the avoided car costs, tourist expenditure, improved traffic safety and positive health effects of cycling leading to lower health care costs and less absence from work. Alongside this were the environmental benefits effects of improved air quality and climate change mitigation. Using the cost-benefit approach, environmental benefits alone were estimated at €608,894 over 20 years, whilst the total value of green infrastructure at project level was estimated to be €1,707,169, which also included benefits from improved road safety, health and recreation. Regional additional effects were valued at €3,885,723, more than twice as high as the project effects. Most of the regional value is created by the multiplier effect of the investments in the project. The total value of the cycle belt is therefore €5,592,892, when project and regional values are combined over a 20 year period.

The researchers suggest that the model provides a useful complement to traditional cost-benefit approaches by highlighting the indirect economic benefits of green infrastructure. It can help convince stakeholders of the importance of investing in green infrastructure and allow policymakers to balance issues of community and economy growth, environmental protection and quality of life. They highlight that in addition to data limitations, the objectives of the evaluation will define or limit the inclusion of different types of benefits and costs in the evaluation exercise. If full benefits were included, such as stress reduction and emotional benefits, then the outcomes would be more positive, whereas if costs, such as automobile industry losses, were included, then the investment would seem less positive.

1. VALUE (Valuing Attractive Landscapes in the Urban Economy) is supported by the European Commission through the Interreg IVB programme. See: http://www.value-landscapes.eu
2. European Commission’s webpage on Green Infrastructure. See: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/ecosystems/index_en.htm
Source: Vandermeulen, V., Verspecht, A., Vermeire, B. et al. (2011) The use of economic valuation to create public support for green infrastructure investments in urban areas. Landscape and Urban Planning. 103:198-206.

Contact: Valerie.vandermeulen@ugent.be

Barcelona Research: links between green infrastructure, exercise and urban mortality rates

­

­

Urban and Transport Planning Related Exposures and Mortality: A Health Impact Assessment for Cities. ­Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/EHP220

Researchers have estimated that, annually, almost 3 000 deaths (i.e. 20% of mortality) in Barcelona, Spain, are premature, and would be preventable if residents lived in urban environments that met international exposure recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat and access to green spaces. The results emphasise the need to reduce motorised traffic, promote active and public transport, and provide adequate green space to encourage exercise and mitigate the impacts of environmental hazards in cities.

By 2050 almost 70% of people are projected to live in urban environments globally. Certain aspects of urban living, including contemporary car-centric city designs, contribute to a sedentary lifestyle and high levels of air pollution and noise, which are known to contribute to premature death. In addition, cities experience increased heat exposure due to human activities and heat-amplifying effects of the built environment.

Green infrastructure – such as parks, urban gardens and surrounding greenness – can reduce the impacts of these environmental risks and provides well-known benefits for physical and mental health.

In this study, researchers estimated the difference between actual and recommended levels of physical inactivity, exposure to air pollution, noise, heat and insufficient access to green spaces in Barcelona. Barcelona has one of the highest air pollution and noise levels in Europe due to high traffic density, with a high proportion of diesel vehicles, and an urban design of narrow street canyons (where streets are flanked by buildings on both sides) that are shielded by dense construction. The city centre can be up to 8 °C hotter than surrounding areas during summer months and only 7 m2 of green space is available per resident; green spaces provide benefits in heat reduction and can mitigate traffic noise and possibly air pollution.

The researchers modelled preventable premature mortality and the increase in life expectancy for Barcelona residents if international recommendations for performance of physical activity and exposure to air pollution, noise, heat and provision of green spaces were met.

The researchers used existing international exposure recommendations as follows: physical activity – 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week (World Health Organization — WHO); noise – daytime noise levels not exceeding 55 decibels (dB) (WHO); air pollution – annual mean particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) not exceeding 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3) (WHO).

Despite no recommendation being available for temperature, it is believed that with changes to the urban plan, such as increasing urban greenery, reducing motorised traffic and improving building design, a cooling effect of up to 4 ºC can be achieved1. The recommendation on availability of green spaces was taken from the European Commission’s working group ‘Measuring, Monitoring and Evaluation in Local Sustainability2 and the WHO, who both recommend living within 300 m of green space greater than 0.5 hectares in size.

Data on current exposure levels for Barcelona residents were taken for: (1) physical activity, from the 2011 Barcelona Health Survey; (2) air pollution, from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE LUR) 2012; (3) noise, from Barcelona’s strategic noise map, 2006 (4) daily mean temperatures for Barcelona from 2009–2014, from the European Climate Assessment and Dataset (Klein Tan 2002) and (5) green space land use, from Urban Atlas, 2007.

The results indicated that over 70% of adults in Barcelona are insufficiently active. Air pollution and traffic noise levels (average current exposure is 16.6 µg/m3 of PM2.5 for air pollution and 65 dB for noise) far exceeded the recommended levels. Summer temperatures in the city exceeded the calculated threshold level on approximately 100 days per year and one third of the population did not live within the recommended distance of a green space.

The researchers estimated that 2 904 premature deaths could be prevented annually if all recommendations were met. This is almost 20% of all annual natural deaths in the city. The largest share of preventable deaths was attributed to insufficient physical activity (1 154 deaths), followed by air pollution (659 deaths), traffic noise (599 deaths) and heat (376 deaths). Access to green spaces was estimated to have the smallest impact on reducing premature mortality (116 deaths).

If these premature deaths were prevented, residents could expect to live, on average, 360 days longer. This benefit to society is valued at around €9.1 billion annually (based on the value-of-statistical-life approach (VoSL) — the amount of money people are willing to spend to save a statistical life).

The researchers acknowledge that the combined effects of the different environmental hazards were not modelled, resulting in potential double counting of deaths. On the other hand, air pollution deaths may also have been underestimated, as certain pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxides, were not considered in this study.

The researchers also acknowledge the limited scientific evidence on the adverse health impacts of noise exposure and beneficial impacts of green spaces. They also point out that the contextual setting and underlying population parameters, such as the general health of the population, personal choices, motivation for behavioural change and time lags between a change and a benefit in any given location, affect human health and the risk of death.

The research, however, does contribute to the understanding of multiple environmental exposures and associated health impacts in an urban setting. The researchers recommend fundamental changes to urban and transport planning. In particular, the use of active and public transport as a means of integrating physical activity into daily life is encouraged and is believed to provide numerous health benefits. Policies to reduce motorised traffic and promote active and cleaner modes of transport should therefore be prioritised. Reinforcement of green infrastructure can also promote engagement in physical activity, mitigate air pollution, noise and heat and has been associated with improvements in mental health, biodiversity and community benefits.

1. Doick et al. (2014)Zhao et al. (2014)

2. Working Groups on Measuring, Monitoring and Evaluation in Local Sustainability, Expert Group on the Urban Environment. Towards a Local Sustainability Profile: European Common Indicators. Technical Report. European Commission, 2001.

Source: Mueller, N., Rojas-Rueda, D., Basagaña X., Cirach, M., Cole-Hunter, T., Dadvand, P., Donaire-Gonzalez, D., Foraster, M., Gascon, M., Martinez, D., Tonne, C., Triguero-Mas, M., Valentín, A. & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2016) Urban and transport planning related exposures and mortality: a health impact assessment for cities. Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI: 10.1289/EHP220.

Contact: natalie.mueller@isglobal.org

 

An Alternative Garden Bridge for London?

“Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow” — Jeff Speck, “Walkable City”, 2012

garden bridge1

Allies and Morrison’s proposal is based on reimagining the existing infrastructure  of James Cubitt’s 1869 designed Blackfriars Bridge by using spare capacity to accommodate a through public garden of similar size of the proposed Garden Bridge, while still providing the vital north-south link for vehicular and cycle traffic along the Blackfriars Rd – Farringdon Rd axis. The Allies and Morrison team state, “By consolidating both the east and west pavements into one larger 14m wide pavement on the west side, we could create a brilliant pedestrianised garden.”

This alternative design would still offer dramatic views of St Paul’s and the City to the east and Westminster to the west and offers a positive response to the Mayor for London’s recent publication Public London: Creating the best public realm – authored by Peter Murray, Fred Manson and Pam Alexander.  The Mayor’s ambitions for the creation of new public spaces and places in London are to, “bring public transport, walking and cycling together to create high quality public realm.”

Using the existing Blackfriars infrastructure connects the north and south shores of the Thames using existing infrastructure thus providing increased capacity in pedestrian access between The City to the north and Southwark and Elephant and Castle to the south whilst creating a green space for commuters plus additional green infrastructure capacity for London. The provision of additional pedestrian space also links with the latest ‘Cities Alive’ report, a collaboration between Arup’s Foresight + Research + Innovation, Transport Consulting and Urban Design teams.  The report ‘Cities Alive: Towards a walking world’ discusses the benefits of walkable cities – economic, social, environmental and political – and sets out measures for improving walkability.  “Creating safe and efficient transportation systems, liveable environments, a sense of place and community, and smart and responsive cities will all help to make walking a normal part of everyday life and the natural choice for shorter journeys.”

garden bridge2

This Blackfriars Bridge Garden concept celebrates existing infrastructure heritage just like New York’s Highline Parkway . Allies and Morrison claims that their proposal does not require extensive construction and can be delivered minus the initial cost of construction of a new bridge whilst connecting two areas of London where there is an existing need for additional commuter capacity. “It would provide 40,000 sq ft of new green space. It would remain public and accessible to all, seamlessly integrated into the existing public realm on both sides of the River without obstructing any of its views of St Paul’s. This light touch approach would be carbon neutral, and together with the cycle superhighway and solar panelled roof of Blackfriars Station, would be at the heart of a global exemplar for sustainable infrastructure.”

Source Text and images : www.alliesandmorrison.com. June 2016.

 

The Crown Estate London Ecology Masterplan

The Crown Estate is working to establish a green corridor in London’s West End, connecting two major parks; Regent’s Park and St James’s Park. The ecology project entitled, ‘Wild West End’ is adopting an innovative, Estate-wide approach. The Ecology Masterplan has been prepared by Arup to guide the installation of contextually valuable green infrastructure (GI) throughout The Crown Estate’s London portfolio. This will provide valuable habitats for wildlife on and around the buildings, and improve the experience for people who live, work and visit the area. In adopting the Masterplan, this has enabled The Crown Estate to take a long-term approach to ensuring the integration of GI within new developments, existing assets and the public realm.

  • Location: West End, London
  • Type of Project: Establishment of an Estate-wide Ecology Masterplan
  • Strategic Advisors: Arup

crownestate

Beneficial outcomes

Whilst the development of the Masterplan began with the objective of enhancing ecology and biodiversity, the importance of the additional direct and indirect benefits to the local environment and health and wellbeing of tenants and visitors has also been recognised by The Crown Estate. These benefits include improved air quality and odour, reduced heat island effect, increased stormwater retention and a more visually attractive environment. It also creates engagement opportunities, and potentially leads to increased dwell time for visitors and attraction and retention of tenants, contributing to the value of the portfolio.

crownestate1Image: Arup

Measurement and monitoring

A key aspect of the Masterplan approach is the use of target-setting and measurement to guide implementation and monitor its success. In order to measure the establishment of a green corridor, a corridor has been defined as an area of significant green space (100m2 or greater) with a maximum separation of 100 metres. Key Performance Indicators have been set for establishment of a total area of green space, and observation of increases in species type and number over a defined period of time.

Monitoring will track the success of the implementation in terms of its benefits to biodiversity, the local environment and health and wellbeing. Baseline bird and bat surveys have been undertaken, identifying the species currently present within and adjacent to the Masterplan area. Sightings were recorded of many different bird species. Recordings were also made of several bat species using bat detectors. Surveys will be repeated at regular intervals. Opportunities exist to engage with local universities to support and extend the learning from the monitoring process. At a project specific level, the intention is to monitor roof and air temperatures and stormwater retention associated with green roofs. The Crown Estate also intends to measure the benefit via tenant satisfaction surveys, impacts on voids, turnover and rental prices.

The Crown Estate is now extending the benefits of this strategic approach throughout the West End, looking to create a partnership with neighbouring property owners. This will broaden the intended biodiversity benefit, contribute to the value of the local area, encourage knowledge sharing and broaden engagement opportunities.

Consultation is ongoing with key stakeholders, enabling the approach to be aligned with local and regional initiatives. Those consulted include Westminster City Council, Greater London Authority, Transport for London, London Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Cross River Partnership, West End Partnership and Royal Parks, as well as surrounding landowners, with positive feedback received from all parties.

There is absolutely no doubt that parks and green spaces in urban areas improve people’s wellbeing and quality of life. Through the Wild West End we look forward to transforming a part of the city for thousands of residents, workers and tourists to enjoy even more.” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

The project, the first city centre ecology project worldwide to be conceived and driven forward by an industry partnership of this sort, is also being supported by the Mayor of London, and the London Wildlife Trust, both of which have agreed to provide advice, promote the objectives of Wild West End and collaborate with the partners on their individual green infrastructure plans going forward.

Research has shown that cities retain only 8 per cent of the native bird species and 25 per cent of the plant species of comparable undeveloped land. Set within the bustling urban environment of Regent Street and St James’s, The Crown Estate’s green corridor will integrate gardens at street level and on rooftops, as well as the installation of bird and bat boxes, beehives and green walls. The introduction of these green pockets amongst Regent Street and St James’s historic buildings will enliven the surrounding public spaces for visitors, and boost the range of habitats available in this part of central London so that wildlife can flourish alongside the millions of residents, workers and shoppers that visit the area each week.

It is also anticipated that Wild West End could have a positive impact on air quality in this part of the West End. In Chicago, introducing green roofs across 10 per cent of the buildings in the city removed 17,400 mg of nitrogen dioxide each year. Improved air quality has clear health benefits. One piece of research suggests that asthma rates among children aged four to five falls by a quarter for every additional 343 trees per square km, as they help keep the air clean and breathable. These benefits have a knock-on effect in terms of public health spending and Chicago estimates that its investment in green roofs could save somewhere between £17m and £65m in public health costs annually.

This case study features in the UK Green Building Council’s report ‘Demystifying Green Infrastructure’

National Planning Practice Guide – Green infrastructure guidance

The UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government has recently published revised green infrastructure guidance as part of the National Planning Practice Guide (PPG).  Green infrastructure now has its own section under ‘Natural Environment’ (along with landscape, biodiversity and ecosystems and brownfield land).  It provides a definition of green infrastructure and describes its value to delivering sustainable development and planning policies, including building a strong, competitive economy and delivering a wide choice of high quality homes.

What is green infrastructure?

Green infrastructure is a network of multifunctional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities.

Green infrastructure is not simply an alternative description for conventional open space. As a network it includes parks, open spaces, playing fields, woodlands, but also street trees, allotments and private gardens. It can also include streams, canals and other water bodies and features such as green roofs and walls.

Why is green infrastructure important to delivering sustainable development?

Green infrastructure is important to the delivery of high quality sustainable development, alongside other forms of infrastructure such as transport, energy, waste and water. Green infrastructure provides multiple benefits, notably ecosystem services, at a range of scales, derived from natural systems and processes, for the individual, for society, the economy and the environment. To ensure that these benefits are delivered, green infrastructure must be well planned, designed and maintained. Green infrastructure should, therefore, be a key consideration in both local plans and planning decisions where relevant.

What is a strategic approach to green infrastructure?

To assist in planning positively for green infrastructure local planning authorities may wish to prepare an authority-wide green infrastructure framework or strategy. This should be evidence-based by, for example, including an assessment of current green infrastructure provision that identifies gaps in the network and the components and opportunities for improvement. The assessment can inform the role of green infrastructure in local and neighbourhood plans, infrastructure delivery plans and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) schedules.

Local Plans should identify the strategic location of existing and proposed green infrastructure networks. Where appropriate, supplementary planning documents can set out how the planning, design and management components of the green infrastructure strategy for the area will be delivered.

This strategic approach to green infrastructure may cross administrative boundaries. Therefore neighbouring authorities, working collaboratively with other stakeholders including Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), may wish to consider how wider strategies for their areas can help address cross-boundary issues and help meet the Duty to Cooperate.

How can green infrastructure help to deliver wider planning policy?

Green infrastructure can help to deliver a variety of planning policies including:

Building a strong, competitive economy

Green infrastructure can drive economic growth and regeneration, helping to create high quality environments which are attractive to businesses and investors.

Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes

Green infrastructure can help deliver quality of life and provide opportunities for recreation, social interaction and play in new and existing neighbourhoods. More broadly, green infrastructure exists within a wider landscape context and can reinforce and enhance local landscape character, contributing to a sense of place. Green infrastructure is also an important approach to delivering ecosystem services and ecological networks.

Requiring good design

Well-designed green infrastructure helps create a sense of place by responding to, and enhancing, local landscape character. Green infrastructure can also help create safe and accessible environments in new development and the regeneration of brownfield sites in existing built up areas.

Promoting healthy communities

Green infrastructure can improve public health and community wellbeing by improving environmental quality, providing opportunities for recreation and exercise and delivering mental and physical health benefits. Green infrastructure also helps reduce air pollution, noise and the impacts of extreme heat and extreme rainfall events.

Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

Green infrastructure can help urban, rural and coastal communities mitigate the risks associated with climate change and adapt to its impacts by storing carbon; improving drainage (including the use of sustainable drainage systems)  and managing flooding and water resources; improving water quality; reducing the urban heat-island effect and; where appropriate,  supporting adaptive management in coastal areas. Green infrastructure networks also help species adapt to climate change by providing opportunities for movement.

Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

The components of green infrastructure exist within the wider landscape context and should enhance local landscape character and contribute to place-making. High quality networks of multifunctional green infrastructure provide a range of ecosystem services and can make a significant contribution to halting the decline in biodiversity.

How should green infrastructure be planned for in the long term?

As with other forms of infrastructure, green infrastructure requires sustainable management and maintenance arrangements to be in place if it is to provide benefits and services in the long term. Arrangements for managing green infrastructure, and for funding its management over the long-term, should be identified as early as possible when planning green infrastructure and factored into the way that it is designed and implemented.

How should green infrastructure be considered in planning decisions?

Where appropriate, planning proposals should incorporate green infrastructure in line with local and neighbourhood plan policies and site specific considerations. As a component of sustainable development, green infrastructure should be considered at an early stage of a planning proposal.  Depending on individual circumstances, planning obligations, conditions or the Community Infrastructure Levy may all be potential mechanisms for securing and funding green infrastructure.