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Capturing the future of urban greening in the heart of our cities.

I'm a huge believer in the importance of greening our urban spaces. Since my days as the Director of Gardens for the Royal Horticultural Society where we raised the importance urban gardens in sustainable development and led campaigns such as Let's get Greening Great Britain! When working on the development of veterans flats for the Royal British Legion Industries I worked with the award winning garden designer Jo Thompson and developers Qatari Diar who donated their Chelsea Flower Show garden to our housing project.

More recently I have been undertaking some photography and drone work with the inspirational Angus Cunningham, Founder and CEO of Scotscape. Their motto of "Breathing life into cities" clearly and concisely sums up their latest initiative to create biodiversity corridors in cities with their innovative Living Pillars. The enthusiasm of Angus and his team is infectious and I have enjoyed capturing these beautiful plant towers. Which are a breath of fresh air in our bustling city streets, they also provide safe connecting routes for birds, bugs and our vital pollinators. Green spaces like these also play a vital role in mitigating urban heat islands and improving air quality, making our cities more liveable and sustainable.

Plant towers on lamp posts on busy urban road in London
Scotscape's Living Pillars on St Johns Road, Clapham

The work Angus and his team are doing really got me thinking about the future of greening our cities in the UK and how are addressing the green space gap, which is an essential undertaking for a sustainable and healthier urban environment. However, this transformation comes with its own set of challenges.

I want to explore some of these challenges and ask some critical questions that highlight the complexities of this endeavour:

1. Can We Find the Space?

  • Ideas like the Living Pillars and Living Walls are a giant step in the right direction. Alongside these, what about creating more community spaces in our densely populated urban areas - where can we find the space for new green areas, parks, and gardens?

2. How Do We Secure Funding?

  • Developing and maintaining green spaces requires a substantial financial investment. How can we secure the necessary funding, especially in times of budget constraints?

3. What About Development Pressure?

  • The demand for housing, commercial, and industrial development often competes with green space preservation. How can we balance these competing needs?

4. Are Our Planning Policies Green Enough?

  • Are current urban planning and zoning regulations in the UK sufficiently oriented towards green spaces and sustainability? Do they need revisions?

5. How to Deal with Brownfield Sites?

  • Brownfield sites, often contaminated, may not seem suitable for green spaces. How can we repurpose and rejuvenate these areas to incorporate green elements?

6. Can We Involve the Community?

  • Engaging the community in creating and maintaining green spaces is crucial. But how can we overcome conflicts and differences of opinion to ensure community involvement?

7. Is Biodiversity a Priority?

  • While creating green spaces, do we give enough consideration to preserving local biodiversity, or is it an afterthought?

8. Who Will Maintain Them?

  • Green spaces require regular maintenance. But who will take up the responsibility, particularly in financially constrained local authorities?

9. How Do We Make Them Resilient to Climate Change?

  • In the era of climate change, how can green spaces be designed to be resilient to rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and flooding?

10. Can We Ensure Equity and Access?

  • How do we address the issue of unequal access to green spaces, especially in low-income neighbourhoods, where the lack of green areas impacts residents' well-being?

11. Are Legal and Regulatory Hurdles a Barrier?

  • How can we navigate the complex legal and regulatory requirements related to land ownership, planning permissions, and liability when creating green spaces?

12. Do We Have the Data and Expertise?

  • Some local authorities may lack the necessary data and expertise for green space projects. How can we bridge this gap in knowledge and resources?

Transforming our cities to be greener, more sustainable, and accessible to all is a multifaceted challenge. Addressing these questions is vital to building a more eco-friendly and liveable urban environment in the UK.

Are you an architect or landscape architect, developer, planner or local authority, or construction company that is leading on some or all of these issues, let me know. I would be very interested in hearing more about the work you are doing. Contact me

Let's come together to find innovative solutions to these challenges and pave the way for a greener, healthier future.

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