Green infrastructure benefits
Improving green infrastructure is a way of getting more out our natural environment, making it a hugely efficient and valuable asset.
Better quality of life
Well-designed green infrastructure improves our quality of life by:
- encouraging community cohesion through bringing people together and using green spaces for social events
- making places more attractive and giving them a better image
- reducing crime (and the perception of crime) through natural surveillance in well-used public spaces.
Poorer areas often contain the most neglected and under-used areas of public space. The rehabilitation of a park in a deprived area can act as a catalyst for regeneration in the entire neighbourhood. CABE’s report, Community Green, shows how providing good quality local green space is an effective way to tackle inequality and improve health.
Well-designed green infrastructure improves our health by:
- reducing the urban heat island effect through evaporative cooling, shading and providing corridors for cooler air to flow into urban areas
- improving air quality by filtering out pollutants
- providing free, easy opportunities for recreation
- helping to reduce stress and improving mental health through enjoyment of open space and nature
- providing safe, easily accessible green routes for walking and cycling
- providing space to grow fresh food.
Natural England has demonstrated the benefits of green space for many health problems including cardio-vascular disease, obesity, depression, coronary-pulmonary disease and diabetes.
Stronger local economy
Well-designed green infrastructure improves the strength of local economies because:
- increasing green space can lead to an increase in average house prices in an area
- attractive landscaping encourage businesses to relocate to and stay in a place
- good green spaces and landscaping improve an area’s image and encourage inward investment
- a high quality environment encourages tourism
- high quality, accessible green spaces can support a more productive workforce by improving health, alleviating stress and increasing motivation
- the green infrastructure ‘sector’ is a major employer nationally
- it can provide food, timber and industrial crops (e.g. bio fuels).
Natural Economy North West has published research on the economic value of green infrastructure. It discovered that the North West’s environment generates £2.6 billion in gross value added (GVA). It also supports 109,000 jobs in environmental and related fields. As well as this direct income, the research discovered a wide range of indirect economic benefits. These include cost savings for the public and private sectors - such as a reduced need for healthcare - and reduction in risks like flooding and climate change.
Protection from climate change
Well-designed green infrastructure helps adapt to the effects of climate change by:
- creating cooler microclimates and reducing the need to cool buildings
- creating cooler microclimates and making towns and cities more pleasant in hot weather
- storing and intercepting rainwater and encouraging natural drainage, to prevent flooding
- storing river flood water to reduce the risk of fluvial flooding e.g. through the restoration of floodplains
- providing shelter and protection in extreme weather.
Well-designed green infrastructure mitigates climate change by:
- absorbing and storing carbon
- reducing travel through provision of local recreation opportunities
- providing walking and cycling routes to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles
- supplying biomass or biofuels to directly replace fossil fuels
- supplying timber to replace less sustainable construction materials
- increasing local food production to reduce food miles.
The North West Climate Change Action Plan includes a comprehensive evidence base for using green infrastructure to combat climate change.
Investment in green infrastructure benefits biodiversity because:
- it provides wildlife habitat
- it creates green corridors between otherwise isolated areas of wildlife habitat, and reverses habitat fragmentation.
CABE and Urban Practitioners
with the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield