Costing the benefits of green infrastructure

King’s Cross Canal - law_keven on Flickr

King’s Cross Canal - law_keven on Flickr

Mark Smulian on Planning Resource argues that ‘a lack of political commitment and a shortage of green skills are pushing urban landscaping down the pecking order despite the potential benefits it offers for improving local quality of life.’

He links into CABE’s Grey to Green campaign which wants to see skills and funding shift from grey infrastructure – think roads – to green infrastructure – think parks, gardens, allotments and green roofs.

He also notes the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey which found that councils spend, on average, 4.3% of their budgets on green infrastructure. Increasing this a little could have a noticeable impact on other areas of concern / expenditure, including local air quality, climate change and health.

The hardy amongst you might like to look-up a recent Dutch research report – Morbidity is related to a green living environment.

The researchers looked at the morbidity data of 195 general practitioners in 96 Dutch practices, serving a population of 345,143 people, and the percentage of green space within a 1km radius of each household.

The results were quite clear. After stripping out demographic and socio-economic factors, the ‘annual prevalence rate of 15 of the 24 disease clusters was lower in living environments with more green space in a 1 km radius.’

The study stresses the importance of green space close to home for children and lower socio-economic groups.

For more on green infrastructure try Brice Maryman’s and Nate Cormier’s Green Infrastructure Wiki.

I sourced the Oakland County (Michigan, USA) Green Infrastructure Program from there. It’s particularly strong on the economic benefits of the programme, and what they term the ‘visioning process’.

Oakland County’s Green Infrastructure Program focuses on identifying an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions, guides sustainable development, and provides associated economic and quality-of-life benefits to our communities.

Sustainable Cities – ‘Preparing towns and cities for a changing climate’ – is also a good place to look for the UK perspective.

It’s strong on the benefits – quality of life, healthier residents, stronger local economy, protection from climate change.

And it also provides examples of best practice. There’s Manchester’s Green Streets project that is planting street trees in areas of socio-economic deprivation where there is currently little green cover. Whilst Sutcliffe Park in London is an example of a new floodplain, engineered to protect Lewisham from flooding and introduce more green space into the area.


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