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Manchester Urban Institute

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

While the technical aspects of GI have now been widely addressed, the governance arrangements and institutional framework of GI implementation requires further research. This project will provide original insights into the ‘new institutional framework’ (HM Government 2011 The Natural Choice) that is emerging for and through the delivery of GI projects. This evolving framework is connecting stakeholders, sectors and policy objectives in new and surprising ways. In particular, the project will examine how the recent shift to landscape-based policy and planning is mainstreaming landscape architecture techniques at the urban level, reconfiguring administrative boundaries and incorporating new types of experiential design. Landscape architects, traditionally contracted on a site-by-site basis, have become integral to conventional municipal planning with the proliferation of GI, being described as the ‘urbanist of our age’. However, it is planners, architects and designers that have received the most attention in the humanities and social sciences, leaving landscape architects, and their expanded professional mandate, understudied.

  • First, the project will trace the growing prominence of the ‘landscape scale’ in UK policy and planning guidelines, which has been key to the rollout of GI and the Natural Capital approach. A key concern will be how the landscape-based approach is integrating and streamlining urban governance processes.
  • Second, the project will examine how policy is put into practice through the expertise, norms and techniques of landscape architects employed on major GI projects. Of particular interest will be the increased overlapping of traditional place-making concerns with the wellbeing agenda, which is leading to a medicalisation of the landscape profession.
  • Third, the user experience will be analysed to consider whether GI sites are encouraging particular types of emotional response, behaviour and citizenship. In addition to focus groups, on-site eudaimonic questionnaires (e.g. QEWB) will be carried out with participants as a prompt to encourage reflective dialogue on the notion of wellbeing and selfhood.

Principal Investigator: Dr Mark Usher

Funding: Simon Research Fellowship