Urban Planning: Green Space Considerations

Urban green space planning (UGSP) is a process of designing, developing, and maintaining an urban area to meet the needs of the present and future population. 

As city populations grow, and we wish to preserve our planet’s resources more effectively, an urban greening plan is key to developing sustainable cities. It helps in creating a healthy environment and improving the quality of life. It also helps in reducing air pollution, noise pollution, traffic congestion, and other related issues.

At least, these are the potential benefits of effective UGSP. If it is done poorly, it can make existing socioeconomic and ecological problems worse, and create new ones.

Effective UGSP can reduce socioeconomic inequality and improve ecological imbalances. However, if UGSP is done poorly, these problems could become worse ─ and unexpected problems could arise.

What Is the Current State of Urban Green Space Planning in Cities?

The state of UGSP varies from state to state, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. 

In some cities, the process has been well-established, while in other cities it has only been newly established. To understand why we could think of our green spaces as urban forests. 

Our green spaces, such as city parks, provide areas to relax and to participate in leisure activities. By adding green spaces to streets, we help to make them more livable.

However, in many cities, our green spaces aren’t distributed evenly. This widens socioeconomic gaps, especially in less well-planned neighborhoods. These tend to be those that we should be helping the most: low-income locations and marginalized populations. Neighborhoods that are more prone to suffer from pollution and flooding, for example.

Green space initiatives are rarely even-handed

Typically, neighborhoods with the characteristics of a lower socioeconomic class are those that require green space the most, yet have the least of it. And the green spaces they do have are quite different from green spaces in more affluent neighborhoods.

In low-income neighborhoods, parks are spaces to be walked through, not to spend time in. We can regreen vacant lots, but these spaces aren’t strategically planned. While taking advantage of such opportunities should be applauded, such haphazard action rarely produces the benefits expected.

We must be more strategic to benefit from green spaces in our cities

We must be more proactive in our UGSP, and we must be more creative, too. We can develop green spaces anywhere ─ along streets, on street corners, on rooftops, and by designing housing to include green spaces such as central courtyards and communal gardens. However, we should not ignore the potential to create green spaces when the opportunity arrives.

So, what’s the answer? We need to develop our UGSP on a case-by-case basis. We must consider the needs of the neighborhood, its uniqueness, and factors that include climate and resource needs.

We must empower and enable communities to drive UGSP

Herein lies the conundrum. City planners should engage with local communities more fully to ensure that our UGSP delivers green spaces that people use and that serve the communities’ socioeconomic and ecological needs.

Briefly, we need to promote UGSP and green space provision so that we consider and treat them with the same importance as we do other city planning and ensure that communities are involved throughout.

The first step is to step back. Let’s listen to our communities, to learn what is important to them. Then we can plan more effectively, to deliver the green spaces that matter to local people. When we do this, we will create urban spaces that communities can take pride in their neighborhood ─ and it is this that will help create the sustainability we so desperately need to develop in our urban landscape.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed, and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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