The Benefits of Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity
Development which provides a greener environment can be more sustainable and deliver important environmental, social, health and economic benefits. Trees and plants can help to offset climate change as well as providing habitats for different species. Green spaces provide important recreational and health benefits, and can encourage social cohesion by acting as a multifunctional community resource. They improve the quality of life for communities by providing visually attractive spaces which can also increase property values and desirability. Attractive, well-designed cycleways and footpaths integrated into the landscape are more likely to be used than roadside routes, improving accessibility and allowing the whole community to enjoy the space.
All major and strategic development sites should be designed around green infrastructure. This should form a solid starting point; any existing landforms, water, vegetation and built features should be allowed to inform and shape the development, adding unique character while contributing to effective wayfinding.
Existing ecological systems and natural habitats found on the site must be safeguarded and enhanced and new opportunities for increasing biodiversity should be explored. Where damage to functioning ecosystems, their associated habitats and species is unavoidable, measures must be proposed to mitigate and compensate for these impacts.
A landscape appraisal (to the Landscape Institute GLVIA3 guidelines) at the beginning of the development process can help to identify the constraints and opportunities of a site, while highlighting areas where a more detailed survey is required.
Well-managed green spaces also offer healthy educational opportunities, both formal and informal, within the development, allowing the general public to embrace their local environment and thereby strengthening community spirit. This can have a positive impact on crime and social disorder, raising the value of land and increasing the desirability of a place. In order for a site to be ‘well-managed’ post-implementation funding needs to be secured.
The delivery of open space as part of a development should therefore not be seen simply as providing an area free of development. The more effective the design and the greater the increased functionality that can be offered as part of that design, the more reason there will be for people to use the space – and the greater the holistic benefit that can be realised.
Page updated: 24/09/2019