by Laura Dobie
Architecture and Design Scotland’s This Friday Presents… Integrating Green and Grey talk on 16th May provided much food for thought on approaches to green space in urban areas. Rolf Roscher, the director of landscape and urban design consultancy ERZ Ltd, gave an engaging presentation focused on both the individual project level, through the Multifunctional Green Space projects, and the wider strategic level, through the Integrated Green Infrastructure study of South West Glasgow.
Roscher argued that the world is made of different, interconnected systems, and that planning and delivery of development does not reflect this well. Places comprise different systems, including roads and transport, access networks, green and open space, and built development, and these are approached through separate agencies which focus on individual systems, particularly transport and built development. He emphasised the gap between policy aimed at creating better places and effective delivery, explaining how an integrated green infrastructure approach considers all these systems and can make policy a reality.
Multifunctional Green Space projects
Roscher discussed ERZ’s work on Multifunctional Green Space projects, which were led by Glasgow City Council. The projects focused on habitat and water management issues, and looked at how to develop interventions that would have an impact on these areas. The Castlemilk Park project explored how to reconfigure the park to improve water storage in the burn in the park and reduce flooding, while the Sandyhills project focused on re-routing a burn to its original course to prevent flooding, and introducing other features to the park to enhance the space. The Camlachie project addressed hydrology issues, although its focus was on creating a habitat for humanity in an area that was isolated, deprived, and surrounded by derelict land. The project saw the creation of a place-making masterplan, which looked at how to create meaningful green spaces where there were none before.
Integrated Green Infrastructure: Nitshill, South West Glasgow
The Integrated Green Infrastructure (IGI) approach to planning and design aims to encourage planners and developers to consider green infrastructure from the start of the design process. It provides a co-ordinating design response to systems which are currently considered by separate agencies and creates a common platform of understanding of the core issues in an area.
ERZ were commissioned by Glasgow Clyde Valley Green Network Partnership in 2012 to carry out a study of Nitshill in South West Glasgow. The study was centred on the five core topics of IGI, water management, access networks, habitat networks, green and open space, and stewardship over time, and it aimed to identify the main interventions which could deliver benefits across all these areas.
The analysis covered geomorphology and hydrology, the characteristics of the built and unbuilt environment, habitat and ecological systems and the social and economic position. It considered the underlying landscape and water courses, identifying a correlation between the catchments for former burns and flooding. The study also revealed how the area is divided by transport corridors, which are out of scale to residential areas and create divisions with few crossing points. Transport links, burns and steep slopes have created clusters with few links between them. In some cases, areas are only connected by dual carriageways with wide open spaces which are not inviting to people. A review of existing green space demonstrated that the area had some high-quality green space, with areas such as Pollok Country Park and Dams to Darnley Country Park, but that there was great variation in the quality and usability of the green network, and poor connections between residential neighbourhoods and the green network.
The strategy focused on establishing green network links at the local and city level, creating safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians and connecting neighbourhoods to community facilities, making the green network accessible, with Nitshill as a hub, and work to manage the water network. Design studies for the area focused on the potential for combined effects, in which a number of positive outcomes could be achieved simultaneously, allowing the greatest impact with limited resources. They included the development of urban framework plans for the centre of Nitshill and selected green links, the development of a green boulevard and sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) proposals for the Peat Road corridor, and the development of an area-wide strategy for habitat creation and landscape management.
The Q&A session considered how to encourage local authorities to pay for an IGI approach. Roscher suggested that an IGI approach could be delivered through more effective use of local authority planning resources and by prioritising areas of anticipated change, areas where there is demand for development and areas in which change is needed, such as areas with a lot of vacant and derelict land, and areas in need of housing improvement.
There were questions as to whether the scale of the strategy was appropriate in straitened times. However, it was suggested that in conducting studies such as this, local authorities are prepared for when funding becomes available. Local government’s focus on the short-term and quick wins was also identified as a challenge, as regenerating an area can take a long time. The higher level of the Scottish Government would therefore be necessary to drive an IGI approach and a longer-term vision.
How to deal with changing funding priorities, such as a switch from derelict land to active travel, was also identified as an issue. Roscher argued that an integrated strategy can cover all of these areas, and that local authorities can switch between different areas as funding becomes available.
Overall, the event was an interesting discussion of how integrated green infrastructure can establish links between different systems and deliver benefits across a range of areas, and demonstrated why the green network and the built environment should be considered together in planning and design, and not in isolation.
The Idox Information Service published a research briefing on the importance of green infrastructure at the start of the year, covering the benefits of green infrastructure, and resources, guides and toolkits in this area. You can request a copy of the briefing here.
The Information Service database also contains detailed summaries of, and full text access to a range of high-quality resources on green spaces and green infrastructure. Recent additions include:
- Planning sustainable cities for community food growing: a guide to using planning policy to meet strategic objectives through community food growing, Sustain
- Determining what is important in terms of the quality of an urban green network: a study of urban planning in England and Scotland, IN Planning, Practice and Research, Vol 29 No 2 Apr 2014, pp202-216
- German experience in managing stormwater with green infrastructure, IN Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol 57 No 3 Apr 2014, pp403-423
- Cities alive: rethinking green infrastructure, Arup
N.B. Summaries and full text access to journal articles is only available to members of the Idox Information Service. For more information on the service, click here.