Green infrastructure (GI) is globally recognised as an essential component of liveable and sustainable places. It is widely acknowledged that it is the primary mechanism for delivering ecosystem services in towns and cities and there is a substantial body of research demonstrating the multiple benefits of GI to urban populations. Despite this evidence base there is still considerable uncertainty about the best way to design, deliver and maintain GI particularly amongst planners and development surveyors who are often integral to the creation or enhancement of GI. There are a number of challenges in GI planning where variation in policy between local authorities, a lack of certainty, skills and knowledge in sector, competition between other objectives, and concern over maintenance and management arrangements can all impact on the quality of proposed GI in planning applications. Even where the proposed GI is high quality this can often diminish through the planning and development process. This paper presents an emerging benchmark, Building with Nature, which has been developed through a combination of literature review and engagement with key stakeholders to overcome some of these challenges and provide greater certainty to the sector. It provides a suite of standards that are flexible enough to be used across different spatial scales depending on the specific needs of the location, covering the form and function of GI including nature conservation, water management, and health and well-being as well as aspects such as how GI can respond to local priorities and maintenance. Building with Nature allows an assessment of GI policies, and the creation or enhancement of GI, ensuring that current good practice is adopted at all stages of the development process. It has been developed though an iterative process with a large number of stakeholders in England and Scotland. Here we summarise this process including the evaluation of the benchmark in a number of real planning applications and GI policies. Building with Nature is performing well. The standards appear to be set at a level that corresponds to existing high quality GI, discernible from the evidence provided in planning applications. This has allowed further refinement of the standards and technical guidance.
The project is funded by Innovate UK and the Natural Environment Research Council through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University of the West of England and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
Sinnett, D., Jerome, G., Burgess, S., Smith, N., & Mortlock, R. (2017, September). Building with nature: A new benchmark for green infrastructure