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The Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention – making places for people

Derelict land in West Dunbartonshire

The Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention is part of the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 Scotland programme and aims to bring transformative change to some of Scotland’s most deprived urban areas through funding the creation of multifunctional green infrastructure. SNH is the lead partner for the Strategic Intervention – we are delivering it on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Green infrastructure is exactly as it sounds – features of our surroundings that work with nature to deliver benefits to people and the environment. The term green infrastructure also encompasses ‘blue’ water elements which may, for example, help to manage surface water and alleviate flooding.

The rationale behind the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention is to use green infrastructure to help address some of the issues faced by urban communities living in areas of multiple deprivation, and in doing so, to demonstrate how thinking about the many functions a place can have can provide solutions to lots of different problems at the same time. We also want to demonstrate that place-making does not have to involve a choice between people and nature.

Our funding is distributed via challenge funds – we invite organisations to apply to us with their plans for green infrastructure projects and what benefits these will bring to local communities. There is no black and white list of what we will fund. We are looking for projects that have the potential to make a real impact and that deliver strongly towards our 5 outcomes:

Nature, biodiversity and conservation

Projects should tell us how they will improve the conservation value of their site, and people’s awareness of biodiversity in the area. This could include, for example, improving local habitat networks or setting up citizen science activities.

Environmental quality, flood prevention and climate change

Projects should tell us how their activities will mitigate against flooding or will improve the local environment in other ways e.g. through improving soil quality or air quality

Involving communities and increasing participation

Projects need to demonstrate clear plans for how they will engage and involve local people and will actively increase levels of use of their local greenspace.

Increasing place attractiveness

Projects should tell us how their project will make their local area more appealing to new business opportunities as well as local people. This could happen by bringing a currently under- or unused space back into use and demonstrating its sustainability into the future.

Increasing health and wellbeing

Spending increased time outdoors can directly contribute to the treatment of a range of health conditions. Our projects should demonstrate how they plan to capture this potential and actively contribute to improving health and wellbeing in their project areas.

We recognise that not all projects will be able to deliver towards all the outcomes, but we do encourage applicants to think about the multiple functions their sites can have and work out how they can deliver towards as many of the outcomes as they can. The ERDF programme also has three Horizontal themes – Environmental sustainability, Equal opportunities and Social inclusion - which cut across all the work it funds and our projects need to clearly demonstrate what steps they will be taking to address these as part of the work they do.

Phase 1 of the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention runs until the end of 2018. So far, we’ve committed £5.8m of funding to 5 projects in the greater Glasgow area and 2 in Aberdeen. The infrastructure itself is only part of the story. As well as telling us about the physical changes they’ll be making to their sites, we ask our projects to clearly demonstrate how they will be engaging and working directly with the communities they aim to benefit, and how the people in those communities will influence and help to shape their greenspaces. All our funded projects have strong community engagement angles, not just in terms of how they’ve developed the project, but in how they will go on to deliver it and in the legacy that their projects will have. Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, we’re hoping that we will be able to run a Phase 2 and fund further capital projects.

As well as our large capital projects, we also have another challenge fund – the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund – which funds smaller projects aiming to increase people’s awareness and understanding of, and involvement with, their local greenspace. We hope that these projects will empower communities to have a greater influence on the development of green infrastructure in their area. Round 2 of the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund will open in early August, when we’ll also be announcing the successful projects from Round 1.

Linking with research

The Green Infrastructure Fund projects will see the creation and improvement of sites across Scotland at an unprecedented scale and will provide an excellent opportunity to carry out ‘before and after’ research into the impact that green infrastructure can have.

We have already started building links with researchers in different disciplines and plan to bring together a research group later this year to discuss relevant current research and how best we can link our sites into ongoing projects, or establish partnerships to start something new.

We would be interested in hearing from any organisations who would like to work with us and carry out research on and around our sites relating to our five outcomes.

We’d also be interested to hear about any current research that might inform future directions the fund takes in terms of priorities, or forums through which we can share experience.

The other articles in this newsletter will give more details of our current projects, and also some further information on other relevant areas of SNH’s work.

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