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How can we make the best use of urban green space?

7 November 2018

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Reported by Ben Walker, CSaP Policy Intern

A CSaP workshop organised in collaboration with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) and Grow Wild brought together practitioners, residents, academics and local government officials at Eastbury Manor House to discuss the best uses of small pockets of urban green space.
"The vibrancy in the room was great and created a lot of collaboration of knowledge"

The workshop was organised with CSaP Policy Fellow, Tom Hook, who is leading on projects at LBBD to develop a new 20-year partnership vision and outcomes framework for the Borough, deliver a step-change in community participation and resilience, and change outcomes for residents through improved use of insight and behavioural change campaigns. Nicki Lane from LBBD commented on the workshop saying that "The vibrancy in the room was great and created a lot of collaboration of knowledge."

LBBD is unusual in having over 4000 small green pockets in addition to its main parks. Eastbury Manor House in Barking provided the perfect backdrop for discussions on how to best use such small spaces, which often constitute a greater collective area than the main parks but are often neglected from urban green space strategies.

"It was helpful to meet people who are ‘doing to do’, learn from their experiences, and be inspired by what they are doing"

Having been inspired by a range of speakers talking about their experiences – academics, front-line workers and local council representatives – participants at the workshop devised plans in groups, looking at the best way to use the small green spaces in a given area of LBBD. One of key difficulties identified early on in this process, was the continued maintenance and funding of any intervention with such numerous spaces.

"It was helpful to meet people who are ‘doing to do’, learn from their experiences, and be inspired by what they are doing", said David Bagshawe-Cope, Director of Strategic Change and Planning at Oxford Brooke's University . "The big challenge now is to sythesise this and to make it into something that many more people will learn and draw inspiration from, and influence policy decisions with."

The key take home message from the workshop was that by effectively including residents from the very start of the process, encouraging them to think about the needs of their area, and empowering them to take ownership of their local green spaces, one can simultaneously build community cohesion whilst reaping the greatest wellbeing and ecological benefits possible from these small pockets of urban green spaces.

This workshop was designed and facilitated by Dr Steven Wooding.

Dr David Cope

Oxford Brookes University

Professor Matthew Gandy

Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Tom Hook

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Dr Steven Wooding

Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge