Multifunctional green and blue networks benefit both people and nature and are essential for thriving and sustainable communities. Research on the importance of access to green space for people’s health and wellbeing is well documented with current research finding links between a reduction in depression and obesity (Institute for European Environmental Policy 2017). Provision of these networks is also a vital response to climate change through the creation of low carbon neighbourhoods and to the ever-increasing threats to biodiversity through provision of improved links for biodiversity.
Delivery of GIS through development.
Director Jenni Reid is one of the UKs first Approved Assessors for a new set of design standards called Building with Nature.
This voluntary scheme supports the delivery of high-quality GIS throughout the green infrastructure life-cycle and aims to design developments that really deliver for people and wildlife. The scheme has 23 standards in total, 5 core, and three thematic standards of wellbeing, water and wildlife. By working with an Approved Assessor it is possible to optimise outputs at design and both pre and post-construction phases and to gain accreditation to really showcase achievements. Our Building with Nature service page details the scheme in more depth.
Delivery of GIS via policy.
Since the introduction of the Localism act (2011), local parish and town councils have been shaping development in their communities by producing Neighbourhood Plans. An essential part of this process is the planning and delivery of Green Infrastructure; however, to date, most Green Infrastructure Strategies have been produced at the sub-regional or local authority level, and not within a Neighbourhood Development Plan context.
Local authority Green Infrastructure Strategies often encompass large geographical areas and set broad aims and objectives rather than informing Local Plans; Parish Green Infrastructure Strategies (PGIS) are based on detailed analysis of opportunities at a local level but set in the context of broader local authority policy.
By focusing at the parish scale, challenges faced by communities can be identified and solutions can be specifically tailored to the local area. This not only helps to guide and inform Neighbourhood Plans but is also useful for Local Planning Authorities. For example, it provides an evidence base when allocating Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds.
Burton Reid Associates have joined forces with Landsmith Associates to develop Parish Green Infrastructure (PGIS) Strategies. PGIS can help Local Authorities to identify opportunities for developers to deliver a cohesive approach to Biodiversity Net Gain across the parish through financial contributions to CILs, for instance.
The purpose of a Parish Green Infrastructure Strategy is to produce a series of evidence-led proposals to inform and guide Neighbourhood Planning, and to provide a vision and framework for connecting people, place and nature into the future. The focus area includes all land within the parish boundary (urban and rural areas) plus an additional 1 to 2 km to provide a wider context.
The first stage is a broad, baseline, desktop study and site visit followed by an initial meeting with the parish council to invite input and to outline the direction of the PGIS. Following further work, the emerging strategy is returned to the parish representatives for comments and suggestions.
The next stage includes a more detailed site appraisal of local demographics and health, flood zones and watercourses, local community incentives and projects, foot and cycle networks; a biodiversity audit and character assessments of the built and natural environment; a review of planning policy and guidance; and site visits to review existing Green Infrastructure within the parish.
Each aspect of the local landscape is analysed to identify where issues could be alleviated through Green Infrastructure initiatives (e.g. town centre flooding could be alleviated by tree planting along a river upstream). Key issues include biodiversity, health and wellbeing, flooding, air quality, development, recreation, food production and travel. All of these are complex and will vary depending on the location and needs of the local community. Liaison with stakeholders, such as Local Planning
Authorities, conservation organisations and NGOs, ensures Parish Green Infrastructure Strategies relate to existing high-level, strategic, local policy, principles and initiatives.
The approach is fully collaborative and brings together the disciplines of ecology, landscape architecture and urban design. The core team remains constant but further specialist input is invited whenever it is required, depending on the specifics and character of each locality (for example % urban to rural ratio) and this inter-disciplinary method of working produces a solid evidence base.
The proposals contained within a Parish Green Infrastructure Strategy provide a framework for communities to deliver their ‘green vision’ for their local area with the expectation that the parish or town council will take ownership of the strategy and drive forward Green Infrastructure enhancements in consultation with community, stakeholders, local authority and other interested parties. Proposals are developed to support growth within the parish, providing potential solutions to challenges such as those associated with an ageing population, climate change, public health and wellbeing and impoverished biodiversity, amongst others.
PGIS provide an interconnected role in enhancing and protecting the built and natural environment. They assist in developing social, environmental and economically sustainable aspirations that can contribute, influence and impact positively at local, regional and national levels.
© Burton Reid 2018