22 Apr 2024


This call for evidence/knowledge builds upon recent knowledge exchange work funded by theNatural Environment Research Council 2017-2021. My project web site is here.https://mainstreaminggreeninfrastructure.com/As part of my sabbatical (February to July 2024), Northumbria University are funding me tofurther develop this mainstreaming work with a focus switching towards the successful deliveryof mainstreaming nature, unpacking the key ingredients that have led to successful policy andpractice interventions.This phase of work is focused primarily on policy and practice communities and researcherswho have operated as “pracademics”.

The call for evidence revolves around three mainstreaming challenges.

Successful engagement with key economic and social stakeholders on natureHow and when to successfully engage people working outside the environmental sector innature and environment policy and initiatives is a challenge as all too often such initiatives tendto involve the usual environmental suspects operating within their comfort zones (silos).Understanding the mechanisms and approaches that have been used to bring diverseaudiences to nature’s table successfully and then how these audience voices have beenmanaged in workshops/visits/web…

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18 Nov 2021

Ensuring nature is mainstreamed into planning policy

A consistent weakness of urban planning policy and decision-making is the dilution of policies for nature in development plans for towns and cities. Green Infrastructure (GI), for example parks, rivers, trees and hedges, are often given lower priority than ‘grey infrastructure’ associated with housing, transport and economic development. Professor Alister Scott from the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences has championed the benefits of including GI in urban areas, which include improved health and well-being of residents, biodiversity and flood risk regulation, and is now working with planners to ‘mainstream’ GI into policy and decision-making processes and outcomes to ensure it is not neglected in the future.Read blog here

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23 Oct 2021


Six lessons to change the climate of climate change narratives.   

As a Professor in Environmental Geography at Northumbria University, Alister Scott is one of the UK’s leading experts with research focused on mainstreaming nature in policy and decision making where he has just completed three years working as a Natural Environment Research Council Fellow.

One of the key topics of discussion at the COP26 climate change summit is on how we can work with nature to improve our responses to the climate emergency. Government representatives, experts and negotiators are debating ways to ensure that nature and sustainable land use are part of global action on climate change and a clean, green recovery.

As part of our coverage of climate related research in Northumbria University, we asked Professor Scott to share his views on the six lessons that governments and decision makers can take from his research.


I have spent the last three years working to improve how nature is mainstreamed in policy and decision making with a range of public, voluntary and private sector agencies and I have captured six key lessons as opportunities that should be applied in the COP26 discussions.  However, perhaps the underlying contex…

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03 Jul 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues for a radical shake-up to the planning system to deliver on his “build build build” mantra. This forms part of strong political narrative that England's planning system is broken and needs radical change.

However, such thinking is not new.  David Cameron in 2011 attacked planners and environmental regulators as the enemy of enterprise and similarly embarked on a package of reforms to speed up housing delivery and economic growth and cut red tape. We saw the “pickling” of regional and strategic planning; the birth of a new National Planning Policy Framework reducing 1000s of pages of planning  guidance to just 60 pages and wave after wave of planning legislation designed to speed up planning and deliver more housing.  

Yet apparently the system still remains broken.  Political change has been a constant in England's planning system. Since the landmark 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, some 360 pieces of planning legislation have been passed. Managing all this change is made more difficult with significant cuts to planning departments under austerity, compounded by incremental legislative changes that create the very complexity and delays that the government now complains about. Furthermore, since 1997 there have been 18 housing ministers which is probably a government  department record which seriously hinders policy consistency.  

Yet throughout much recen…

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08 Apr 2020

We are living in the strangest of times and the most unsettling of times at present. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced most of us back to our homes for work, rest and play apart from essential workers with a short list of specified activities that allow us to venture out. One of those is for daily exercise and given recent media photographs of overcrowded parks and riversides, this puts attention on the supply and demand of functional greenspaces in our pressurized urban areas and perhaps demands a rethink in the way we design and manage such places now and for the future

Read more here 

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22 Nov 2019

New PhD Opportunity on green infrastructure. 

ONE Planet Doctoral Training Partnership Project: Mainstreaming green infrastructure: how to better use the green belt to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies in North East England

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

1.How can we mainstream nature more effectively in green belts?

2.Given both climate and biodivdersity emergencies;how can we better utilise our peri-urban spaces to be more environmentally productive?

3.What is the natural capital value of our green belts?

For further information on the ONE planet scheme please folow this link https://research.ncl.ac.uk/one-planet/

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26 Jul 2019

Preliminary observations on new Planning Practice Guidance for the  Natural Environment

This reflective piece looks primarily at the green infrastructure and net gain components of the recently released NPPG for the natural environment and should NOT be seen as a comprehensive review.  


The natural environment has become populated with an increasing and bewildering array of terms and concepts; natural capital, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, net biodiversity gain and net environmental gain and nature recovery networks. Each term in itself requires unpacking but crucially needs to be understood in terms of how they all fit together so as to deliver better environmental outcomes.  This is problematic as they have all been introduced at different times and for different purposes so their fit is not perfect.  The guidance does not address this and thus leaves the concepts floating within their own definitional and policy spaces begging the question how they might fit together in plans, policies, programmes and projects.  Given the recent national and local authority declarations of a climate emergency this does represent something of a missed opportunity[1].  

There is reference across the NPPG t…

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03 Jul 2019

Climate Emergency: So What?

Many governments,  local authorities and agencies have declared a climate emergency; in all by the end of June 2019,  some  135 million people have been affected.  Indeed,  the UK has become the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency. 

This positive worldwide action begs fundamental questions about what this declaration means and whether it will lead to new responses and interventions in policies, plans, projects and programmes and then how such an emergency will inform key planning and resource management decisions. The context to this is important as whilst many people are concerned about climate change,  there is a reluctance to pay more to take action against it. This reinforces a wider view that  the environment  imposes a constraint on development or economic growth and thus becomes politically volatile with voters as France recently discovered under

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25 May 2019

In recent weeks we have been exposed to a whole series of reports and actions on the climate emergency we face [1], rapid and unprecedented declines in global biodiversity[2] and the hidden killer of air pollution that is responsible for some 4.2 million deaths annually[3] . Individually these issues are alarming but collectively they signal the need for important actions globally, nationally and locally. In my view it fundamentally demands change in how we view and use nature as a society. For too many it is seen as a luxury that can be dealt with once economic growth and other political imperatives have been achieved.  Rarely has it been, or is it, seen as critical infrastructure in the kind of places we seek to create. At the heart of this blog is the need to mainstream nature into policy and decision- making  

It is here that the ‘mainstreaming’ concept needs to be brought into sharp focus. All too often it is a term that is loosely used and falsely claimed. Mainstreaming is about taking a concept, accepted and  used in one policy area and embedding it across other policy domains within their daily priorities. For nature, this means securing improved traction and subsequent adoption in the business, housing, growth, health and community sectors associated with urban expansion wh…

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