Urban Greening and the Draft New London Plan
By Natasha Jones, Senior Associate
The Urban Greening policy in the Draft New London Plan seeks to ensure that major development proposals provide sufficient green (or green-blue) infrastructure in the built environment, to help meet targets on noise, air quality and water pollution, help manage climate change effects and improve habitats for wildlife.
The amount of urban greening provided by a proposed development on a previously developed site in London will have to be quantified using the Urban Greening Factor (UGF) assessment method. The Mayor has set initial targets, which the proposed development will be required to meet; in future, each London Borough will set their own targets.
The UGF will assess the existing site conditions as well as the proposed development, to provide a comparison. This will enable developers to clearly demonstrate the quantity of urban greening, and therefore how the proposed development will contribute to the city’s green infrastructure and environmental targets. The UGF assessment considers amounts of surface cover provided by wetland or open water, green roofs, green walls, street tree planting, rain gardens and vegetated sustainable drainage systems, hedges, flower-rich perennial planting, permeable paving and sealed surfaces.
The UGF will be in addition to planning policies which ensure protection to, and the provision of, parks, natural habitats and other green open spaces. Notably, the UGF aims to ensure new developments provide a range of environmental benefits; not just biodiversity, but also amenity space, addressing urban heat island effects, sustainable drainage and people’s health and wellbeing.
A key issue is that the UGF is a simple quantification tool; it does not determine the quality of urban greening design or consider how high quality urban greening can provide greater amenity and wellbeing benefits. The UGF also does not take into account the specification, maintenance and long-term management of the urban greening features. Undertaking good management is essential for the longevity of the urban greening features and to ensure that they provide the intended environmental benefits. It is likely that the long-term management of a development’s green infrastructure, and associated management costs, will become of greater concern to the developer and to the local authority in the future.
As the practical application of UGF emerges through the design and planning process in London, it will be interesting to understand how it sits alongside other sustainability assessments. Southampton City Council was the first to adopt a Green Space Factor scheme –I would anticipate that other UK cities will soon follow, particularly in response to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
PBA’s environmental consultancy advice navigates the challenges of urban regeneration developments, bringing together urban greening, ecology and SuDs as integral design elements of development masterplans to create lasting value for our clients and provide social, economic, health and environmental benefits in multi-functional spaces.
For further information, or to find out how PBA can assist with your with UGF assessments, please contact Natasha Jones.