John O’Neil, Glasgow Caledonian University
John O’Neil, a PhD student at Glasgow Caledonian University, used GiGL’s open space data to assess the quality of the green network in Islington. His research has resulted in the creation of a new tool to help you get the most out of your green infrastructure.
Strategic and local planning policies increasingly seek to improve quality of life, to conserve and enhance biodiversity and respond to the challenges of climate change by providing high quality networks of urban green spaces.
Existing approaches generally assess quality at a site level but don’t assess the quality assessment of the green network as a whole. SIGNpost: (spatial indicators for the green network) is a new approach to quality assessment for use by policy makers and is underpinned by indicators of quality which can be applied at the neighbourhood, local authority, sub-regional or city-wide scales, complementing site level quality audits.
SIGNpost has been devised by analysing research literature, and through workshops with green network practitioners in planning, parks management and biodiversity. Using this two-fold approach, my research has identified six principles that are important for understanding the quality of the network: quantity, flood risk, proximity, biodiversity, linkage and cooling.
Each principle is assigned two specific indicators that can be organised into three groups to reflect the scope of quality: greenness (or the amount of green space), public accessibility and environmental performance. A scoring system for the quality of each indicator (‘A’ (high), to ‘D’ (low)) is linked to a suggested policy response to developing the green network. For example, a score of ‘A’ would be linked to a policy response to ‘protect and conserve’, while a policy strategy to ‘create and reinvent’ the network would apply to a score of ‘D’.
The ultimate aim of the SIGNpost tool is to help develop landscape-scale policies which maximise the benefits of the urban green network.
SIGNpost exploits data that is already widely collected to prepare open space strategies. This means the tool should not create an additional burden on resources, provided that good quality and up-to-date data is available.
Open space data made available by GiGL and the London Borough of Islington was invaluable in piloting SIGNpost. The indicators were applied to Islington and the results of the pilot discussed with council officers who felt that the results accurately reflected the state of the borough’s green network. This is an encouraging sign that existing datasets can, with SIGNpost, add value by providing information which is relevant at the network level. This should add to the pool of evidence available to policy makers to develop policy, prioritise interventions, and monitor outcomes over time.
John O’Neil, MA, MRTPI. PhD Research Student, Glasgow Caledonian University. firstname.lastname@example.org