The BlueGreen Impact Project (2021) led by Associate Professor Dr Meri Juntti with the London Development Trust supports socially just long-term outcomes from investment in greenspace and water features as a part of urban regeneration. While there has been an emphasis of the importance of urban nature for mental health and wellbeing particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, this project derives impact from research which critically examines the ability of residents of disadvantaged neighbourhoods to actually benefit form parks, gardens and other forms that nature takes in the urban context. It develops indicators and guidance for context sensitive planning and delivery of urban nature and highlights the risk of so called ‘green gentrification’ – a rise in property value and associated loss of affordability when water features and greenspace are integrated into housing projects as a ‘unique selling point’. The outputs feed directly into the work of the project partner, the London Development Trust, which provides social stewardship consultancy to local authorities and developers and supports communities through regeneration.
The BlueGreen Impact project builds on findings from interdisciplinary research combining ecological and social science inquiry by Middlesex academics in collaboration with the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and Abertay University in Scotland. A pilot project seeking proof of concept for ‘experienced ecosystem services’ explored the manner in which the benefits of urban nature, often termed urban ecosystem services, such as heat and noise insulation from greenery or space for active recreational pursuits afforded by parks, actually benefit all residents in socio-economically and ethnically mixed neighbourhood in London (Juntti and Lundy 2017). We discovered that both subjective factors and the social and material context matter to how any benefits are experienced. For example fear of crime may render a green area a threat (or dis-benefit) rather than a beneficial service, but this will not be the case for all. Our research in Brazil showed that women may be at a disadvantage for a range of reasons (Bradshaw et al. 2020) but differences are also evident between residents of different ethnic origins and those of insecure housing status, while subjective capabilities and the services provided by the local authority come into play also (Juntti et al. 2021).
The BlueGreen Impact project will unpack this complexity into usable guidance and indicators that aim to increase the understanding of the social impact of urban nature among the stakeholders undertaking and providing oversight for urban regeneration.
Bradshaw S. Linneker. B. and Lundy L. (2020) Naturally Feeling Good? Exploring Understandings of ‘Green’ Urban Spaces in the Global South. In Depsey N. and Dobson J. (eds) Naturally Challenged: Contested Perceptions and Practices in Urban Green Spaces. Pp: 37-57.
Juntti M., Costa, H. and Nascimento, N. (2021) Urban environmental quality and wellbeing in the context of incomplete urbanization in Brazil: integrating directly experienced ecosystem services into planning. Progress in Planning Progress in Planning Vol. 143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.progress.2019.04.003
Juntti, M., Lundy, L. (2017) A mixed methods approach to urban ecosystem services: experienced environmental quality and its role in ecosystem assessment within an inner-city estate. Landscape and Urban Planning 161:10-21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2017.01.002