Ivan Clark, our Plan and Placemaking Team Manager explains how we can deliver better quality greenspace in social housing developments.
Scotland’s urban green spaces provide a range of benefits for people and nature. They can provide opportunities for people to connect with nature close to where they live, spaces to grow food and refuges for wildlife. Green space can also provide valuable services such as managing flood water and mitigating the effects of air and noise pollution. Considering green spaces as ‘green infrastructure’ in this way can help to create successful places with healthy, thriving communities.
Over the past year I’ve been working with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Architecture & Design Scotland, Scottish Government and others to explore the opportunities for delivering better quality green infrastructure in social housing developments. Today, we publish a report of that work “Maximising the benefits of Green Infrastructure in Social Housing”
The report suggests there are currently few examples in Scotland of social housing that fully maximises the potential of green infrastructure to deliver multiple benefits for tenants and the wider urban environment. It found that there is a general lack of awareness of the costs of different elements of green infrastructure and its benefits amongst social housing providers. In addition, the way that social housing is currently being delivered means that the detailed design of the spaces around buildings is not considered until later on in the process. There is still a perception that good green infrastructure is a ‘nice to have’ rather than a fundamental aspect of a successful place.
The research identifies several recommendations including the need to establish a stronger business case for green infrastructure. In other words, we need better information on exactly what, say , a green roof costs compared to its ‘grey’ alternative or what the costs/benefits are of using some land for sustainable drainage compared to the costs of mowing ‘amenity’ grassland several times a year. We need to get better at selling the benefits of green infrastructure by delivering and then sharing some examples of good practice on the ground. Part of this may be to provide some support to social housing providers in the early stages of procurement to enable them to establish a more robust design brief that delivers more public benefits from the land around the buildings.
The report also recommends that we find a better way of monitoring the quality of places that are currently being delivered through ‘More Homes Scotland’, the Scottish Government’s affordable housing investment programme. This might mean expanding the scope of the current Value for Money tools for new affordable housing so that the benefits of the ‘green’ aspects of housing developments are recognised more explicitly.
We believe everyone should have a good quality home that meets their needs and that nature can play a key role in making places where people can thrive and lead healthy lives. We will continue to work with colleagues in the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Scottish Government to look at how the recommendations can be implemented in a way that supports the provision of more affordable homes for more people and greener places where people have more opportunities to connect with nature.