Enhancing public green space: biodiversity and community participation in Cornwall

Another of the GI projects outlined at the recent TCPA conference was delivered by Robert Lacey, Principal Development Officer Strategic Planning Cornwall Council. He described a large-scale research/pilot project (mainly EU funded), and with TCPA as lead principal partner to:

  • Increase biodiversity across 35 hectares of public green space
  • Increase the use of and local perception of these spaces
  • Reduce the council’s on-going maintenance costs
  • Increase knowledge of ecosystem services
  • Engage with communities and parish councils
  • Increase opportunities for life-long learning
  • Devolve and manage the resulting assets with a maintenance plan

Following a contextualisation of issues of high levels of deprivation in some neighbourhoods, some years of environmental decline and crucially pointing out that conventional approaches to economic development have ignored the value of what the environment contributes – Robert outlined how Cornwall Council aims to be the most environmentally friendly planning authority in England.

This project which began in January 2017, plans to take green spaces, for example a simple playing field type space in Treskerby (on the outskirts of Redruth) and enhance and upgrade it, making it useable across the generations by adding pathways, seating, picnic areas, bins, a football pitch, cycle stands signage, enhanced shrub and tree planting for insects, birds (biodiversity), managing parts of grassy areas as meadows, making swales (a low area of land, which is moist or marshy, that will allow water to run off a site), and adding grassy mounds for visual interest.

Cornwall Council #3

Cornwall Council IMage

At the conference, I noted that both Nigel Dunnett and Robert Lacey referred to their programmes as either action research, or pilots. I believe that this iterative, always learning, through doing and then reflecting, the doing again approach, is key to making real change happen.

Bearing this in mind, whilst Cornwall is a less urban area than I mainly work in, I can still see a lot of relevance to this research project in some of the places I’m currently working in. In the UK there are many playing field type spaces that are mainly just mown lawn, that could benefit from some simple inputs to upgrade and enhance them into better quality functional, socially and environmentally beneficial spaces. And when these spaces are considered in terms of their broader linkages to other social and economic infrastructure in a locality, their value is strengthened even further.

Image credits: 1 Google Maps, 2 Cornwall Council

About waymarkingthesketchbook

Sarah Spanton is director of arts organisation Waymarking - www.waymarking.org.uk
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