One of the biggest barriers to implementing Green Infrastructure (GI) within urban environments is the lack of planning policy regarding this hugely valuable approach to development. 

Research conducted by Mell (2015) looks at obstacles and provides some brilliant recommendations to overcome them. Below their key points are summarised;

GI has taken many years to implement into planning policy, and despite the evidence of the multiple benefits it provides, there is still long way to go before it becomes the ‘go to’ approach for planning. 

Planning with GI has developed over the past 10 years at a fast pace. This has been influenced by politics, funding and investment, and increased knowledge of the values it provides; playing a role in preventing climate change, providing social benefits, and also long term financial savings. Key organisations have also influenced the changes in policy including; Natural England (2009), Forestry Commission (2010) and Town and Planning Association (2012).

GI is an approach that could be better utilised in planning as it covers such a broad spectrum of infrastructure. It can be implemented as roofs, green walls, flood mitigation systems ranging from rain gardens to swales, or smaller approaches such as an increase in tree and wildflower planting. This allows for a greater number of options for its implementation into new developments. 

 Perhaps because of its versatility and multiple benefits, GI should have a more dominant role in planning policy and one that is proactive. This will ensure it is one of the first parts of infrastructure to be considered in the development process, as apposed to a reactive approach, where GI is implemented afterwards. This approach poses problems such as GI being removed from a plan completely, due to lack of remaining funds, or is not integrated into the scheme and thus does not maximise its benefits. A proactive approach also allows the opportunity to conserve existing habitats that can be worked around. 

 

Similarly being proactive in planning, and thinking strategically, instead of being reactive to societal change, though challenging, will ensure GI is better implemented and more successful in policy. The ultimate goal for GI planning policy would be for GI to be considered as an alternative to all proposed grey infrastructure (as much as is possible). Because of the versatile nature of GI, this would surely see a dramatic increase in its implementation. 

 There is still a long way to go to ensure GI becomes an integral part of policy, and to move forward we need to continue to engage all stakeholders and spread knowledge about the benefits and values derived from this alternative approach to development. Its flexibility in planning strategies needs to be emphasised, which may lead to a solid policy that is based on evidence and expertise. 

We need to promote how GI can contribute to the many EU goals, especially the most recent ones at the COP21 in Paris, and how it aids in strategically managing growth. 

 

Mell, IC. (2015) Green infrastructure planning: policy and objectives. In Sinnet, D, Smith, N & Burgess, S. (Eds) Handbook on Green Infrastructure: Planning, Design and Implementation. Edward Elgar Publishing , Cheltenham, pp. 105-123.