23 Oct 2021
I have just completed three years working as a Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange Fellow working to improve how nature is mainstreamed in policy and decision making. This has a particular resonance and relevance to COP26 and highlights some of the key challenges and opportunities to address. My approach involved working with a range of public, voluntary and private sector agencies piggy backing on to their work and adding value to help them address their mainstreaming challenges. This piece distills that intelligence in a series of key lessons for researchers, policy and practice to support the COP26 challenge and emergency. At the heart of this is the need for URGENT ACTION not greenwash cosmetics dressed up with fine rhetoric with certainly no place for Kermit the frog.
Lesson 1: We need to avoid the obsession with metrics of quantity
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…
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
22 Nov 2019
New PhD Opportunity on green infrastructure.
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/
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.
There is reference across the NPPG t…
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
25 May 2019
In recent weeks we have been exposed to a whole series of reports and actions on the climate emergency we face , rapid and unprecedented declines in global biodiversity and the hidden killer of air pollution that is responsible for some 4.2 million deaths annually . 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…
13 Sep 2018
Mainstreaming green infrastructure in policy and decision making: unlocking the potential of the planning system
Special issue : Guest Editor Prof Alister Scott
The Town and Country Planning Association's landmark journal Town and Country Planning is published monthly and provides a synthesis of thought provoking debate and astute analysis with feature articles written by expert practitioners, decision makers and academics. This current call for papers is for a special issue on mainstreaming green infrastructure in the planning system of 2000-2500 words. Contributions are desired from academics, policy and practice to share their experiences, lessons and solutions.
Anybody with an interest should set out a 200 word proposal following the guidelines below. The proposal should be a word skeleton outlining your paper and how it meets the criteria below
The key criteria for acceptance are
1. That the paper is looking at a key aspect(s) of the planning and development process and the way that GI is/isnt integrated within it.
2. That the paper is critical and reflective highlighting the lessons learnt from the experience rather than feature on an exemplar alone.
3. That the paper does explicitly consider the concept of mainstreaming moving beyond its use and application in the environmental sector.
4. A strict word limit of 2500 words is applied.
09 Aug 2018
Making the Green Belt more productive An interview for RT news channel