DECADE: Greenspace in Scotland – the Grass is Always Greener?

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In 2015 A&DS celebrated 10 years and following a series of 10 events on 10 key topics a publication of reflections was published at the end on 2015. Throughout 2016 – the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design – we will -re-publish extracts from the publication on each topic. Our fourth topic is Greenspace in Scotland – asking if the Grass is Always Greener? 

 

Over the past ten years, more and more communities in Scotland have come together to animate and revive the spaces ‘in between’ – greenspace.

One such place is Hayburn Play Park, Glasgow, where we held our DECADE event in 2015. It is being developed into an even greater asset for residents, providing a space for children, young people and adults to enjoy nature in the middle of a city.

But all greenspace projects are not the same. The jury’s still out on the relationship between council governance and real community engagement – there are still too many examples where one part of a council supports a group while another barriers the way.

Groups need support to maximise their ideas, win funding and deliver projects. However, in the public sector, the support is diminishing and, in the third sector, staff often can’t be retained by the projects once the initial capital grants run out. Inadequate revenue funding must be addressed if greenspace projects are to be sustained.

Consultation has to be meaningful, not tokenistic. It has to happen on site, with everyone (locals, professionals, politicians) who needs to be involved in the change process so consensus can be reached. And the conversations must continue as the project develops and is delivered.

Scotland’s Greenspace Map is a helpful tool for decision-making, used to identify areas of greenspace deficit and oversupply. In areas short of greenspace, elements of greenspace (at least) must be factored into redevelopment plans. In places with lots of poor quality and underused greenspace, it might make more sense to develop areas to take the pressure off greenbelt and rural land.

In Scotland, we remain risk averse and opportunities for natural play, using materials like sand and gravel, aren’t forthcoming. Unlike our European neighbours, we don’t seem to have the mechanisms in place to look after these features to ensure they’re safe and well maintained. We need these.

Effective greenspace should be good for people and wildlife – it needs to be accessible, managed, connected and provide a variety of uses and species. Everyone in ‘the greenspace movement’ can work to raise expectations about the use, design, management and maintenance of parks and green areas.

We must be bold, state the benefits and win support.

Sue Evans, Board Member, A&DS

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