How green, blue and open space supports community resilience

At an excellent event, hosted by Scottish National Heritage on 8 November at Battleby, near Perth, Geovation had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on Greenspace mapping. We learnt and shared experiences about data, OS Greenspace mapping and how this dataset differs from the original Scotland’s Greenspace Map dataset. We found out how others have already been using it, and discussed future ideas and opportunities.

The event was aimed at local authorities and it was encouraging to see the number of Councils attending in ‘pairs’ – a GI colleague accompanied by a planner or greenspace manager. This proved an excellent way of exploring how the new OS Greenspace products could be used and the support that policy and management officers need from GI colleagues.

The importance of green, blue and open space in improving health and wellbeing, supporting the local economy, enhancing the natural environment and enabling sustainable living was clearly illustrated during the event, as was the role geographic information, with technology. Using these ingredients can help to tackle some of the problems faced in building greener, smarter, more resilient communities – the focus of our latest Geovation Challenge.

Julie Procter, from Greenspace Scotland introduced how greenspace contributes to community resilience through safer and stronger, healthier, greener, smarter, wealthier and fairer communities – the five strategic outcomes of the Scottish Government.

Shona Nicol from Scottish Government described work-in-progress to develop a new method for measuring the Scotland Performs national indicator on “improving access to greenspace”. This uses GIS to give an objective measure of the percentage of households within a 5-minute walk of open greenspace. She highlighted areas for further development of both the methodology and the mapping products.

We then heard about Glasgow City Council’s strategic approach to protecting and enhancing open space. Alan Duff described how, motivated by SP11; they are undertaking an open space audit and strategy with a focus on quality, accessibility and quantity.

Will Roper, from the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, emphasized the importance of maintaining an accurate, consistent and current database of allotment and community growing spaces, to provide a baseline from which to measure progress towards strategic objectives. Will noted that whilst there is only 0.9 ha of allotment and community growing space per 10 000 population in Perth and Kinross, there is 90 ha of golf course.

Form and function in green space mapping is being used to help identify land that may be used as allotment sites and other areas of land that could be used for community growing. Ea O’Neill, also from Greenspace Scotland, described how this is done and explained that this is part of the requirement of local authorities (LA’s) to prepare food growing strategies, under the Community Empowerment how Act. LA’s must also describe how they intend to grow provision, which includes: community gardens, allotments, market gardens, community supported agriculture, community orchards, individual and community gardens, public parks, historic estates, green corridors, housing areas, civic spaces, high streets, vacant sites, and ex-educational site, schools and universities, health centres & hospitals, sheltered housing and care facilities, work places and public buildings.

Liz Richardson from NHS Health Scotland, described research undertaken by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH) which demonstrates the beneficial links between health and wellbeing and access to greenspace. The benefits are: psychological restoration, improved social contact, greater physical activity and reduced exposure to environmental risk factors such as noise and air pollution. Liz asked can we use greenspace mapping to answer the questions:

Is the health of individuals/populations related to the green space they experience? If so, how and for whom?

In an ongoing study, Liz demonstrated the links between neighbourhood greenspace and childhood development using several information sources and measures. Most childhood development outcomes were better if they had private garden access and pro-social behaviour was better with more overall greenspace access. A new study also demonstrated the positive impact of neighbourhood greenspace on birthweight of babies.

Eleanor Comley, from the NERC funded Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project, showcased “Shmapped” – an app that allows users to map the good things about Sheffield. This was developed as a means of finding out more about which aspects of the natural environment are beneficial to health and wellbeing. The “Shmapped” app prompts participants once a day to notice the good things about green or built spaces; the hypothesis being that both will be beneficial, but noticing nature more so. It tracks participants’ exposure to greenspaces throughout the day to see which environments offer the most wellbeing benefits, and it measures health and wellbeing with questionnaires at baseline, after 30 days and a 2 months follow-up.

Chris Parker, from Geovation, finished off the day with inspiration for participants about how OS greenspace and geographical information can be used to tackle real-world problems and challenges, as he outlined the opportunities through the current Geovation Challenge for Greener Smarter Communities.

Several questions need consideration:

If the value of green, blue and open space is clearly recognized by those who manage it and use it, why are its costs and benefits not properly or truly accounted for?

Is it because we are using accounting methodologies and tools designed for an out-dated, linear (take, make and waste) economy rather true cost accounting tools designed for a modern, circular, regenerative, systems-based economy?

If we only account for the financial value derived from green, blue and open space and not the social, human, environmental value, are we not heavily underestimating the true value of our natural and human made open space assets?

How then, can we use geographic information, technology and design thinking to account for the total costs and value of our green, blue and open spaces, through new systems based solutions and business models?

That is the objective of Geovation’s latest challenge: “How might we build greener, smarter communities and cities?” How can we solve old problems in new ways by developing products and services that maximize the use of our natural and man-made green, blue and open space assets whilst minimising, or designing out waste and other externalities through circular solutions and business models?

If you have a great idea of how to tackle some of the problems this Challenge is focused on make sure post it up before midday on 29 November at: geovation.uk/challenge.

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