Urban Green Spaces for Human Well-being - International ...

iaia.org

Urban Green Spaces for Human Well-being - International ...

Urban Green Spaces for Human Well-being

Ulf G. Sandström, PhD, Swedish EIA Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box

7012, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden. Phone +46 (0)18 67 12 91, E-mail ulf.sandstrom@sol.slu.se

Abstract

Today more than 50% of the world’s population inhabits urban areas, making the urban

environment the most common habitat for man. A town or a city can, besides the citizens, be

looked upon as containing four physical structures: roads and squares; buildings;

technological infrastructure; and, green infrastructure. To achieve urban sustainable

development the European Union recommends densification, which often results in the

construction of roads and buildings at the expense of parks and other urban green spaces.

However, urban green spaces can be looked upon as multifunctional systems of considerable

importance to the quest for sustainable development, including recreational purposes and

other features important for human well-being. The aim of this study was to investigate

whether Swedish municipalities take the multiple uses of urban green spaces into

consideration. Urban green plans from six municipalities’ were evaluated according to the six

criteria: recreation; maintenance of biodiversity; city structure; cultural identity;

environmental quality; and, biological solutions to technical problems. The results show that

limited consideration has been given to the multiple uses of urban green spaces, thereby

restricting possibilities for sustainable development. Impact assessment practitioners must do

more to address this important limitation of current Swedish planning practices.

Summary statement of main points

Urban green spaces as a multifunctional system are important for sustainable development,

including human well-being, but these values are not fully understood by Swedish city planning

authorities.

Key words

Urban green space; Public health; Multifunctional system; Sustainable development

'IAIA09 Conference Proceedings', Impact Assessment and Human Well-Being

29th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment,

16-22 May 2009, Accra International Conference Center, Accra, Ghana (www.iaia.org)


Introduction

“There are in reality not only, as is so constantly assumed, two alternatives –

town life and country life – but a third alternative in which all the advantages of

the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the

country, may be secured in perfect combination; ..//.. the Town-Country which are

seen to be free from the disadvantages of either” (Howards, 1902:8-10).

In the beginning of the 20 th century, the Englishman Ebenezer Howards (1902) published

ideas on how to create a town that benefits from the country, namely the Town-Country, later

called the Garden City. A famous example of a garden city is Letchworth or official name

Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire in England. The city was created in 1903 by

Howards and the first garden city in the world. The purpose of the Garden City was to bridge

over the separation of society and nature, to live in a healthier environment absent from

pollution, which at that time was among other things smoke from the burning of coal, the

“smog”. Howards wanted to bring an alternative to those days’ unhealthy environments.

“Town and country must be married and out of this joyous union will spring a

New Hope, a new life, a new civilisation” (Howards, 1902:11).

Today more than 50% of the world’s population inhabits urban areas, making the urban

environment the most common habitat for man. Continuously the urban areas increase in the

number of inhabitants as well as in size. As a result of this development there is a dilemma in

the community planning how to obtain urban sustainable development. To achieve sustainable

development in urban areas the European Union recommends densification, which often

results in the construction of roads and buildings at the expense of parks and other urban

green spaces. However, urban green spaces can be looked upon as multifunctional systems of

considerable importance to the quest for sustainable development, including recreational

purposes and other aspects significant for human well-being.

An urban area can be looked upon as consisting of four physical structures, namely the

buildings, the infrastructure, the technological structure and the green infrastructure. The

buildings are for example blocks of apartments, office buildings, industrial buildings etc. The

infrastructure is the roads, streets and squares while the technological structure is, for

example, water and sewage systems, electric cables, district heating system. The green

infrastructure can be defined as followed:

Green infrastructure in an urban environment refers to all non-hard and nonbuilt

areas, including surface water areas as well as a zone of 1-2 km between

town and countryside that are more or less connected to each other. The structure

should be organised with an overruling strategy, i.e. it must be possible to

recognise a system in the structure. Accordingly a green infrastructure is a

network of patches of natural character including surface water and greenways,

penetrating an urban built-up area. The concept should not be limited by

administrative considerations; i.e. both public and private lands are included in a

green infrastructure” (Sandström, 2002a).

'IAIA09 Conference Proceedings', Impact Assessment and Human Well-Being

29th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment,

16-22 May 2009, Accra International Conference Center, Accra, Ghana (www.iaia.org)


The aim of this study is to investigate whether Swedish municipalities take into consideration

the multiple uses of urban green spaces. A similar study was published seven years ago

(Sandström, 2002b) and this study will investigate if any progress can be seen. The same

criteria as the former study has been used (see below) to evaluate green plans from six

Swedish cities. Besides this introduction, this paper present the method used in the study, the

results and finally a short discussion.

Method

Urban green plans from six Swedish municipalities’ are evaluated according to the following

six criteria (The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, 1992):

1. Recreation, everyday life and public health – availability and quality of parks and

other green spaces;

2. Maintenance of biodiversity – preserving diversity within species, between species,

ecosystems, and of landscape types in the surrounding countryside;

3. City structure – as an important element of urban structure and urban life;

4. Cultural identity – enhancing awareness of the history of the city and its cultural

traditions;

5. Environmental quality of the urban area – improvement of the local climate, air

quality and noise reduction;

6. Biological solutions to technical problems in the urban area – establishing close links

between technical infrastructure and green spaces of a city.

On the basis of these six criteria Sandström (2002b) developed 47 indicators, which also are

used in this study. They provide a comprehensive picture of the green structure as a

multifunctional system and therefore play an important role in obtaining urban sustainable

development. Examples of indicators are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Examples of indicators used in the evaluation of the six green plans. For explanation of all 47 indicators

see Sandström 2002b.

Criteria

(The figures correspond Example of indicator Explanation of indicator

to the criteria numbers

above)

1 Accessibility Location of green space within walking distance

and without barriers

2 Habitat continuity Older habitats develop higher species diversity

compared with younger ones

3 Structuring functions Lines of trees, avenues and other vegetation along

streets, roads and squares

4 Historical heritage Green spaces of historical importance, associated

to special historical events

5 Filter pollutants Deciduous and other trees can act as a filter and

clean the air

6 Cleaning storm water Green spaces are used to prevent polluted

rainwater running directly into a recipient

The above six criteria were used to evaluate green plans in order to find out how the multiple

role of green infrastructure has been perceived in six Swedish cities: Jönköping, Västerås,

Eskilstuna, Örebro, Karlskrona and Nyköping (Jönköpings kommun, 2004; Västerås

kommun, 2004; Eskilstuna kommun, 2006; Örebro kommun, 2006; Karlskrona kommun,

2008; Nyköpings kommun, 2008). The six plans are evaluated according to each indicator

using four evaluating standards:

'IAIA09 Conference Proceedings', Impact Assessment and Human Well-Being

29th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment,

16-22 May 2009, Accra International Conference Center, Accra, Ghana (www.iaia.org)


- the indicator was not mentioned or discussed in the plan

(+) it was mentioned but not discussed

+ it was mentioned but briefly discussed

++ it was fully analysed.

The reason why exactly six green plans are studied is because it was difficult to find such

plans carried out although there are a total of 290 Swedish municipalities to choose between.

Result

The recreation criterion was the most important in the six green plans. The following criteria

in accordance to attention in the green plans were biological solutions to technical problems,

maintenance of biodiversity, environmental quality, cultural identity, and city structure (Table

2). However, it should be noted that if the criteria are weighted, i.e. the numbers of indicators

for the separate criterion divided with the total number of indicators (47) times the average

percent of indicators considered in the criterion then the order of importance were recreation,

maintenance of biodiversity, cultural identity, environmental quality, biological solutions to

technical problems, and city structure (Table 2).

Table 2. Average percentage of the indicators in each criterion (± standard deviation, SD) that received the

evaluation standards mentioned but briefly discussed and fully analysed (i.e. symbols + and ++). Weighted order

of the criteria is N/ ∑N times the figures in the column Average %

Criteria

Average % (SD) of

indicators

considered

N

Weighted

order

1. Recreation 68 (16) 13 19

2. Maintenance of biodiversity 49 (26) 15 16

3. City structure 23 (23) 5 2

4. Cultural identity 38 (45) 6 5

5. Environmental quality 43 (39) 5 5

6. Biological solutions to technical problems 50 (35) 3 3

Note: N = number of indicators concerning each criterion

Discussion

The evaluated six plans were published between 2004 and 2008. During these years the

municipalities were supposed to focus more on urban green spaces in town planning

compared to the beginning of 1990 th . This is because the Swedish government in 1999 in

order to obtain more sustainable development in the society adopted 15 national

environmental objectives, whereas one was A Good Built Environment which states that:

Cities, towns and other built-up areas must provide a good, healthy living

environment and contribute to a good regional and global environment. Natural

and cultural assets must be protected and developed. …//… Areas of unspoiled

nature and green spaces close to built-up areas, which are easily accessible, are

protected in order to meet the need of play, recreation, local farming and a

healthy local climate. Biological diversity is preserved and enhanced.

(http://www.miljomal.nu/english/obj15.php, 14/3/2009).

A green plan is not mandatory as for example the municipal comprehensive plan (MCP).

However, the municipalities are expected to develop green plans as an important part of the

'IAIA09 Conference Proceedings', Impact Assessment and Human Well-Being

29th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment,

16-22 May 2009, Accra International Conference Center, Accra, Ghana (www.iaia.org)


MCP as the municipalities are expected to pay attention to urban green spaces, which are

looked upon as important for the inhabitants as well as for urban biodiversity etc. In this study

there was quite difficult to find green plans developed by Swedish municipalities. In the

Swedish municipalities the main planning instrument is the legally binding detailed

development plan (DDP), which also must undergo a screening procedure to determine the

impact significant. In this screening process there should be paid attention to if the DDP

affects urban green spaces. The result of this study show a similar result as the study carried

out seven years ago (cf. Sandström, 2002b), namely that the DDPs and accordingly the

screening process do not pay attention to the multiple functions of the urban green spaces.

The conclusion is that impact assessment practitioners must do more to address this important

limitation of current Swedish planning practices.

References

Eskilstuna kommun. 2006. Grönstrukturplan [Green Structure Plan]. Eskilstuna:

Stadsbyggnadsnämnden, Eskilstuna kommun

Howards, E. 1902. Garden Cities of To-morrow. Wales: Attics Books. Originally printed in

1898 as To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform.

Karlskrona kommun. 2008. Grönstrukturplan för Karlskrona kommun – en del av

Karlskronas nya översiktsplan (samrådshandling) [Green Structure Plan for the

municipality of Karlskrona – a part of the new comprehensive plan for Karlskrona

(consulting document)]. Karlskrona: Karlskrona kommun

The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, 1992. Storstadsuppdraget. En

preliminär studie om miljön i storstäder. [A Preliminary Study of the Environment in Big

Cities] Karlskrona: The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning.

Nyköpings kommun. 2008. Grönstrukturplan 2008 (samrådshandling) [Green Structure Plan

2008 (consulting document)]. Nyköping: Nyköpings kommun.

Örebro kommun. 2006. Örebro grönstruktur [Örebro Green Structure]. Örebro: Örebro

municipality.

Sandström, U. G. 2002a. Green Structure and Biological Diversity in Swedish Urban

Environment. Centre for Housing and Urban Research Series Report 53. Örebro: Örebro

University.

Sandström, U. G. 2002b. Green Infrastructure Planning in Urban Sweden. Planning Practice

& Research 17(4): 373-385.

Västerås kommun. 2004. Grönstrukturplan för Västerås tätort. Rekreation – Biologisk

mångfald [Green Structure Plan for the City of Västerås. Recreation – Biodiversity].

Västerås: Stadsbyggnadskontoret Västerås kommun.

'IAIA09 Conference Proceedings', Impact Assessment and Human Well-Being

29th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment,

16-22 May 2009, Accra International Conference Center, Accra, Ghana (www.iaia.org)

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines