A City with a Vision: Worcester Green Infrastructure Partnership
From the late 1980’s onwards, it has been clear that Worcester City Council has been dedicated to maintaining and enhancing their strategic green infrastructure network. The interplay between policy and implementation within the city and related green infrastructure partnerships is impressive. The team at Worcester City Council remain exuberant and buoyant despite cuts to resources and the lack of a highways team within the city council itself.
The planners have protected green linkages formed by natural infrastructure that is both publicly and privately owned. Some of the earliest urban extensions to the city developed in the early 90’s includes woodland corridors, with a recognition that wide, wooded roads would lead from denser residential areas to woodland and open countryside. Stormwater infrastructure (or blue infrastructure) is valued every bit as much as green, and attractive urban trees line each side of the Worcester to Birmingham canal route.
GreenBlue Urban was fortunate enough to have also been involved in Worcester’s Diglis Basin project, not far from the city centre. It is evident that the health and well-being of residents in the downtown, its ever-expanding suburbs, and the wildlife, are at the heart of council policy.
Whilst the tree lined linkages of the earliest extensions to the city remain a characteristic of the outer fringes, nearby Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) have been safeguarded from future development, causing a challenge for the team to face.
Housing supply and a need to accommodate significant population growth forecasts within the city boundaries mean that urban planners must come up with even more innovative and creative solutions to integrating green and blue infrastructure, whilst allowing for increased densification. Working with Trees for Cities and other organisations, the council can raise awareness and promote community support for Worcester’s urban trees.
New developers in the Worcester area are also required to attend pre-application, which in the case of this local authority are not merely ceremonial. A robust SUDs / LID scheme, respect for biodiversity and existing natural infrastructure are all key to the approval of development at any scale.
The Worcestershire Green Infrastructure Partnership is a conglomerative collaboration of statutory agencies such as the Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage, local authorities, and voluntary sector organisations such as the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. It promotes green infrastructure throughout the County of Worcestershire to establish a network of green spaces that intersperse and connect the cities, towns and villages in the county, providing multiple benefits for the environment, the economy and the local communities.
The Partnership takes a holistic approach to viewing and managing the natural environment, acknowledging the multiple benefits and vital services that GI provides, making tangible links to economic, health and social welfare agendas and aspirations. Components of green infrastructure include biodiversity, landscape, historic environment, access and recreation and water.
The Worcestershire Green Infrastructure Strategy is an initiative designed to drive forward the delivery of green infrastructure in the county. It sets out county-wide principles to inform plans and strategies being developed by partner organisations and to enable a coherent approach to delivery across a range of initiatives.
A film to introduce and promote the concept of green infrastructure has been produced by the Worcestershire Green Infrastructure Partnership. It uses a journey along the River Severn through the heart of Worcester city to tell the story of how planning with GI in mind can deliver multiple benefits to economy, environment and people. It stresses how infrastructure elements – whether green, blue or brown spaces – lie between and connect towns, cities and villages and should be planned for sustainably.