Governing green infrastructure

This project is investigating how the roll-out of green infrastructure (GI) is transforming contemporary urban governance in three major cities in England, focusing on a characteristic landscape feature in each study location: a river in Leeds City Region, parks in London, and trees in Greater Manchester.

Overhead photo
Photo: Jamie Anderson

This project is investigating how the roll-out of green infrastructure (GI) is transforming environmental governance in England, focusing on urban tree management in Greater Manchester. This region is serving as a laboratory for the UK Government’s radical new approach to environmental policy, which is being facilitated through GI, and its accompanying “software”, natural capital accounting.

After a decade of GI strategy and policy, the way that urban nature is now perceived, represented and managed has dramatically changed- it has been infrastructuralised. This project seeks to analyse the social, economic and political impacts of nature’s infrastructural turn, particularly how it has overlapped with, and perhaps enabled, a broader set of policy objectives during a period of extensive governmental reform.

GI has been subject to a significant amount of academic research, particularly in landscape planning, urban ecology and physical geography, in terms of identifying, categorizing and measuring its diverse range of services and benefits. However, there is a need for research on the institutional effects of GI on governance arrangements, as it migrates from technical best practice to mainstream government policy.

Why did GI enter into government policy when it did? What does framing trees as infrastructure do institutionally? What are the social, economic and policy drivers of infrastructuralising nature? How has GI enabled or constrained the participation of different stakeholders? How have associated types of expertise, from the landscape profession for instance, been incorporated into policy?

This three-year project is being funded by a Simon Fellowship and will be completed in September 2021. The Principal Investigator is Dr Mark Usher.