Green infrastructure (GI) can provide sustainable regenerative solutions for the urban challenges we face, according to CIWEM’s new briefing report Multifunctional Urban Green Infrastructure.

With a dramatic increase in land use pressure coming from over 80 percent of people living in urban areas and an increase in temperature due to climate change, it is essential that green infrastructure is embedded into planning and funding priorities.

A variety of green and open space standards have been put in place over the years relating to access and provision, and there are many places in the UK that boast significant amounts of green space, but a lack of attention has been paid to its function.

GI can provide numerous solutions to environmental challenges. Cooling can be achieved through green corridors, open spaces, street trees and green roofs, removing some of the causes of urban heat island effect; urban green space also reduce run-off and increase natural infiltration, whilst the restoration of natural river channels adds to flood prevention; conservation of functional habitats supports biodiversity; and GI can help to ameliorate air pollution through providing more attractive green transport solutions. Community involvement in the design and management of green infrastructure can also add to social inclusion and promote stewardship.

However, green infrastructure is not addressed in an integrated manner. CIWEM’s report calls for the current range of PPSs cross referenced to promote multi-functionality and sustainable approaches to urban planning.

Strategic planning should create networks and corridors for wildlife, incorporating protected habitats and BAP species, whilst Regional Spatial Strategies should be used to embed green infrastructure into regional and local policy. CIWEM hopes to see a presumption for SuDS in new developments, designed and maintained according to CIRIA Guidance C697, and further attention should be paid to retrofitting SuDS to existing properties.

CIWEM also believes that density thresholds are needed for new housing on private gardens to ensure that adequate green infrastructure is provisioned, and planning guidance is required to ensure that local authorities and developers are fully aware of the potential biodiversity value of private gardens. Funding for parks and green space is currently non statutory for local authorities. Whilst investment in grey infrastructure runs into billions of pounds, the value of green space as part of environmental infrastructure for flood prevention and for climate change adaptation needs to be accounted for. CIWEM urges the Government to prevent future cuts to ensure this vital resource is maintained. It is hoped that CIL regulations will provide funding for the creation and maintenance of extensive green infrastructure.

CIWEM’s Director of Policy, Justin Taberham, says: Urban temperatures in some cities are creeping up to levels that could make them unlivable in if climate change projections come to pass. This could have serious implications for public health and urban dwellers. Therefore, CIWEM believes the aim should be to achieve areas of multi-functionality in urban areas where land is valuable and the challenges are greatest. Green infrastructure should be embedded into spatial planning and viewed as part of the wider infrastructure of urban areas.”

This report is aimed at policy-makers and practitioners and discusses the drivers and barriers to increasing green infrastructure provision in our towns and cities.

Multifunctional Urban Green Infrastructure is freely available to download from

Source: CIWEM