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Tackling the barriers that keep nature off the cities

Novembers blog features the Urban GreenUP project, an EU Horizon 2020 with the objective of developing, trialing and replicating "Renaturing Urban Plans" in a number of European and non-European partner cities with the aim to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve air quality and water management, as well as to increase the sustainability of our cities through innovative nature-based solutions. This month, the project launched the results of their analysis on obstacles hampering the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions and possible related countermeasures:

Making our cities more sustainable and less harmful for the environment is one of humanity’s top priorities. Different approaches in this direction can be adopted. So far, renaturing urban plans by making use of Nature-Based solutions (NBS) are among the most effective ones. However, different kinds of barriers may stand in their way or slow them down. To top it all off, these hindrances are often times interlinked to one another which therefore makes it impossible for radical changes such as NBS to take place. To address this issue, the EU-funded URBAN GreenUP project has prepared a document identifying the main classes of barriers faced by its fellow cities. It also provides indicators on how to overcome such barriers, along with a collection of success and failure stories.

The document outlines different kinds of barriers. Some of these obstacles are purely technical and related to the NBS design and installation while others are of political, legislative, financial and social concerns, which may jeopardize altogether the implementation of these NBS.

In the realm of politics, one of the toughest barriers is the conflict and mismatch of priorities between local and the national governments. These include budget restrictions and cuts, as well as bureaucratic red tapes like land ownership.

Further complications arise by adding legislation into the picture. For one, legislative approval is required every time important changes such as NBS implementation is to take place in a city. This will become more troublesome if we also account for NBS’s unconventional designs that may violate the local legislative measures or protocols, and if these interventions should be implemented on private property.

Looking at it from a financial perspective, the biggest concern that the population may have is where the funding needed to implement NBS should come from. As a matter of fact, NBS most often fail to offer tangible cash return in the short term. This makes it less attractive for future investors.

Last but not the least, social barriers may arise as NBS impose a change of scenery and habits for the locals. For one, people have low public awareness as to how environmental protection can be beneficial to them. As a consequence, nature based interventions are considered among the citizens’ lowest priorities thus giving them a weak stance as to whether they should be supported.

The document is publicly available on the URBAN GreenUP website and is meant to provide guidelines and recommendations to cities and organisations implementing NBS.

Carrongrange High School Green Roof

Green roofs, when designed well, provide homes for a range of wildlife, especially pollinating insects, and can be used and enjoyed by people to.  A green roof installed at Carrongrange High School in Grangemouth is doing just that!

The 300m2 roof garden, installed in 2017, was planted with a range of plants, including Chive, Heathers, Sedums, Lambs ear and a wildflower mat which included a diverse mix of native species. The garden was designed to allow access for pupils and teachers along the entire length of the roof and a cobbled path that goes from one end to another is wide enough to allow access for wheel chairs.

In May 2018, Buglife along with staff from the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative ran three workshops with the schools gardening club. Each workshop invited pupils onto the roof garden to show them the different plants on the roof and the wildlife feeding on them. These workshops also provided opportunities for the pupils to learn how to maintain the garden and what plants to weed and remove.

   

During the workshops, pupils enjoyed seeing Small copper butterflies, all stages of Seven spot ladybird, Red tailed bumblebees and the leafhopper Cicadella viridis. Not only does this roof provide outdoor space for pupils to use for learning but it provides space for them to sit and relax. Teachers have also enjoyed the use of the garden in lunchtimes and when using it with pupils.

Since the workshops, Buglife have returned to the roof to weed it before the new term started in August 2018. We added in some new herbs, including Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender and Marjoram, that will be great for pollinators but also nice for pupils to touch and smell.

Glorious Green Roofs is an Inner Forth Landscape Initiative project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community delivered as part of the EcoCo LIFE project: https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/glorious-green-roofs

The roof was installed by ICB (Projects) Ltd. And has won an award for best Green Roof Installation at the NFRC Scottish Roofing Contractor of the Year Awards 2017.

Building with Nature – recognizing the delivery of multifunctional green infrastructure

This months blog has been written by Nick Bowen of Ian White Associates and looks at his experience of working with the Building with Nature accreditation currently being trialed in Scotland. 

Frustrated with trying to bend your masterplan to fit through BREEAM Communities shaped holes? Building with Nature is a new benchmark, developed by the University of the West of England and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to support the delivery of high quality green infrastructure. Offering technical guidance, assessment and accreditation, the scheme does not require reams of additional documentation to be prepared as evidence; rather, it gives a framework of key principles, arranged into ‘core’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘water’ and ‘wildlife’, to guide the design process and against which proposals can be assessed. The key difference is that the assessment is holistic and qualitative, capturing the overlapping, multi-functional nature of successful green infrastructure in a nuanced manner; it gives due importance to the quality and character of place and a response to local context.

Currently being trialed on 5 projects in Scotland (with the help of GCV Green Network Partnership), the Building with Nature User Guide can be used to prepare for accreditation; or it can be used as a self-assessment tool which can help the design process, ensuring no opportunities are missed. It also covers implementation and maintenance. It even has guidance and a method for assessing policies – one of the Scottish pilot projects is the green infrastructure policies of West Dunbartonshire Council.

New Bruntstane masterplan

My experience with the process on the New Brunstane masterplan (above) has been very positive – it is in depth, interconnected and the assessor has specific knowledge concerning green infrastructure rather than being a generalist of the building industry. And it seems to me to be a very effective tool to help achieve the standard of green infrastructure Scotland needs. But don’t just take my word for it; have a read of the standards and consider how you are measuring up!

We hope to see the results of the Scottish pilots this Autumn, at which point we will keep members updated.

Nick Bowen CMLI

Integrating Surface Water Management Planning & Green Infrastructure

Septembers blog has been written by Gaye Makay, Senior Flood Risk Manager with Glasgow City Council and Pauline Fletcher, Community Initiatives Manager at Southside Housing Association looking at Integrated surfance water management within Glasgow. 

The name Glasgow was first recorded in the year 1116 and it is thought to mean green basin or green valley, ‘Glas’ meaning green and ‘Cau’ a hollow.

If our ancestors were to visit the city today, they would see a very different landscape, which is predominantly urbanised, with only pockets of green areas still existing. An impact of this urbanised landscape is that many of the watercourses and drainage networks in Glasgow can now be found below ground in pipes and channels, which have only limited capacity. Possible changes in our weather, due to climate change, means it is time for us to come up with a new plan on how rain is managed.

Surface Water Management Plans (SWMPs) have been prepared in a number of catchments across the city, developed to identify the most appropriate and cost-effective way of managing surface water flooding. The plans have been formed in line with the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnerships (MGSDP) Vision. The MGSDP 2060 Vision is to transform how the city region thinks about and manages rainfall to end uncontrolled flooding and improve water quality. The vision will be realised through partnership working which will be shaped by the eight Guiding Principles, as described in the adjacent diagram.

One of the first of these projects to be progressed to construction phase, is in the Greater Easterhouse area; this is being delivered based upon the outcomes of the Cardowan SWMP and the Greater Easterhouse Integrated Green Infrastructure (IGI) Strategy. The project is part funded by City Deal and the SNH administered ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund. By combining the Greater Easterhouse IGI Strategy, with the SWMP, this facilitated an integrated approach to the delivery sustainable flood management solutions and will provide green-blue corridor connections to the Seven Lochs Wetland Area.

Glasgow City Council carried out a series of consultation events to provide the public with the opportunity to shape the proposals and share their ideas on this new green infrastructure. The design has evolved based upon this feedback and involves the creation of new surface water management features, including daylighted water courses, swales and detention basins, linked to wider improvements to access, landscape and habitats.

Another project, this time on the south west side of the city, involves the creation of two new urban parks. Glasgow City Council, as part of their Surface Water Management Plan for Hillington and Cardonald are proposing to introduce sustainable drainage measures at Moss Heights (known as Halfway Community Park) and Queensland Court and Gardens. At Halfway Community Park this involves integrating drainage interventions, along with investment in the Park by Southside Housing Association to enhance underused open space. The Park project is being part funded by City Deal, the ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund, ENV 2 Funds, EB Scotland, Glasgow Tree Lover’s Society and Southside Housing Association.

 

This project will involve retrofitting surface water management measures within the upper catchment, within an area of underused greenspace adjacent to the Moss Heights flats. This will reduce flood risk downstream by storing runoff and releasing it at a controlled rate, thereby creating capacity in the combined sewer and reducing flood risk. Multiple benefits will be achieved through the integration of drainage interventions with landscape design for the new Park, optimising opportunities to enhance greenspace and providing wider place making benefits to support regeneration. Further information can be found here.

Scotlands first edible school wall!

July’s blog comes from the winner of the 2016 CSGN Ideas Fund, urban greening research scientist and consultant Dr Lynette Robertson, talking about the successful delivery of the edible vertical garden she has created at Busby Primary School in East Renfrewshire with the help of landscape artist Marc Grañén:

Vertical gardens are a great way to liven-up school grounds in urban areas with limited green space and they help provide much-needed opportunities for pupils to connect with nature, which has been shown to be beneficial for student learning, and health and wellbeing. The importance of environmental education in schools is increasingly recognised, and this project aims to combine outdoor learning with messages on healthy eating.

Marc Grañén has gained international recognition for his work with schools in Barcelona and it’s been really exciting to work with him on a first installation in Scotland, in collaboration with Bristol-based landscape architect Alex Patience (Livegraft).

Pupils at Busby Primary school were involved in the planting of the vertical garden, using an assortment of edible plants such as strawberries and culinary herbs, as well as variety of wildflower species to help support rare local butterflies, selected with the help of Butterfly Conservation (BC) Scotland Project Officer Anthony McCluskey. Located in the school grounds, the pupils will also be involved in looking after the garden as it continues to grow and flourish, which will include biodiversity monitoring with the help of BC Scotland.

The school has been incredibly supportive of the project, they see the vertical garden as a valuable resource, providing pupils with a vehicle to explore conservation, sustainability and biodiversity as themes within their education, helping them become active participants in their community.

The installation was made possible with funding provided by the Nineveh Charitable Trust, Ernest Cook Trust, Tesco Bags of Help, and Timberplay Scotland. Initial development of the project was funded through the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) Ideas Fund, which was created to inspire innovative environmental projects. The 2016 competition focused on artists and creative professionals in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.