Five projects have been implemented in 2019:
- UPPER – Urban Productive Parks for the development of NBS related technologies and services, Latina
- Green Minds – A planning and management system for sustainable land use and nature based solutions, Plymouth
- PUJ – Prato Urban Jungle
- GreenQuays - Urban River Regeneration through Nature Inclusive Quays, Breda
- SPIRE - Smart Post-Industrial Regenerative Ecosystem, Baia Mare
When looking at the different projects selected, it is possible to highlight the following common trends: rewilding the city; innovative governance scheme.
Rewilding the city
Facing climate change and its consequences on the urban environment, cities’ projects give more space to nature through rewilding strategies. Their intensity often varies with the degree of urbanization of the area they are dealing with. For instance, the GreenQuays project is dealing with quays of Breda’s river which runs through densely built areas, with no space for natural riverbanks. Thus, the project entails renaturing 800 metres of the river by testing and adapting best options for materials and technical implementation to create conditions for the growth of a vertical ecosystem (herbaceous plants, ferns and mosses).
Changing attitudes and behaviours to prioritize natural infrastructure and foster a management approach that works with nature rather than against, calls for a significant change of mind-set. It is particularly made visible by the GreenMinds project. Plymouth municipality is indeed working on a strategy to foster this change of mind set and behaviour within its own administration and among its citizens. While developing a new “urban rewilding” plan, questioning the traditional approach to urban green spaces maintenance and creating a strong and updated evidence data base assessing natural capital and its social value. The UPPER project also challenges the traditional approach to green infrastructures, rethinking their use. Indeed, the municipality of Latina is testing an innovative use of urban green areas, regenerating three misused urban spaces and creating the urban Productive Parks devoted to research, development and self-production of Nature Based Solutions (NBS). Those activities are combined with social innovation approaches for social care, inclusive jobs, training, education, sports, creativity and entertainment. Reintegrating nature and natural processes into built areas through nature-based infrastructures is also being considered as a solution to the land use challenges that the city of Prato is facing. As part of a wider Operative Plan, the Prato Urban Jungle project is regenerating industrial abandoned sites with nature and architecture integration and turning marginal and deprived areas into high-densely green and active hubs.
Innovative governance schemes
As in other growing urban areas, the five selected cities are experiencing urban expansion, which undermines both ecosystems (city canals and rivers, lands) and citizens’ quality of life (lack of parks and green public space, heat spots…). In order to deal with it, they deploy complex solutions, involving many urban stakeholders and therefore create innovative governance tools and bottom-up approaches in order to design, manage and monitor efficient and sustainable projects. The UPPER project implemented by the urban authority of Latina deals with sustainable solutions that target private and public-owned lands and therefore develop an innovative management scheme including all related actors. Testing a participative green regeneration programme, the project will co-design and co-manage Productive Parks and Demonstration Sites for the experimentation of self-produced NBS (plants for phytoremediation of water and soil, indigenous trees to combat heat island effect and air pollution, filtering and reinforcing plants for soft engineering interventions on canal banks and coastal dunes). The Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ) is implementing a similar approach as it aims at rewilding urban spaces within Prato to create citizen-owned Urban Jungles. Launched in three different areas (company-owned area, social and dense area, brownfield), the project will adopt a community-led approach to design, develop and maintain the Urban Jungles, through the creation of Green Hubs, innovative communities of stakeholders, citizens, businesses, civil society actors. Such approach is also implemented by the former industrial city of Baia Mare, through the SPIRE project which seeks to re-incorporate its highly polluted brownfields into the productive urban fabric. Therefore, the strategy developed combines a depollution plan based on NBS with a strategic thinking on a new urban economic development model based on a new understanding and use of urban resources. Such holistic approach requires a cooperation scheme involving a critical mass of local stakeholders. This is done through two main channels: a hub to co-create activities in 5 very different areas (e.g productive landscapes’ design, phytoremediation pilots) and a local digital token system which rewards civic environmental behaviour, involvement and eco-entrepreneurship.
Such collaborative perspectives combined with new green space management, imply to rethink governance schemes at municipal level and to include more stakeholders into the short term and long-term decision process. This approach is experimented in Plymouth. Considering that traditional maintenance of green spaces is costly and threatens biodiversity, the GreenMinds project rethinks the overall green space management in order to develop a new “urban rewilding” planning code.