Plymouth

Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions

Green Minds - Green Minds - a planning and management system for sustainable land use and nature based solutions

"This is a really exciting time for our green and blue spaces. Working together with all our partners and communities, this project will enable us to develop Green Minds - leading to sustainable parks, nature reserves, beaches and woodland areas for generations to come"

Cllr Dann, Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Scene, Plymouth City Council
The project in numbers
13
year life expectancy difference between the East and the West of the city
34%
of Plymouth is green space
50%
of Plymouth’s greenspaces is categorised as poor quality
20%
reduction in Plymouth City Council’s green estate workforce since 2012
3,995,496.56
Total ERDF budget granted
Challenge addressed

Plymouth is the biggest city in the South West peninsular with a population of 263,100, estimated to rise to 300,000 by 2034. As part of our city’s growth there is a need to plan high quality green and blue infrastructure for Plymouth communities that maximise the benefits for health and wellbeing, social value, biodiversity, the local economy and climate resilience.
Plymouth is a waterfront city and is more than 30% greenspace. However, managing green space in England is not a statutory function for local authorities. Increased pressure on local government budgets has reduced the amount of funding and investment into greenspace, which has led to a decline in green space quality. Currently, 50% of Plymouth’s greenspaces do not meet quality thresholds although residents in poorer areas use local green/blue spaces less frequently. In addition, Plymouth’s green/blue infrastructure is owned and managed by multiple organisations that have traditionally not worked in partnership.
Budget cuts have also resulted in a much reduced staff resource and loss of specialist knowledge within the city’s green estate management. Since 2012, 20% of the green estate workforce has been lost. With continued pressure on our budget the quality of our natural infrastructure could further decline, fewer people will use it and the cost of reinstatement will increase.

National and international research shows that these challenges are common to other geographical areas and the learning from Green Minds aims to provide solutions, tools and techniques that can be used more widely beyond Plymouth.

Solution proposed

Green Minds will deliver a more integrated planning and management system for urban nature and help maximise the social value created through sustainable land-use management and nature based solutions. For the first time, Green Minds aims to combine approaches to urban development and governance that are entirely new or in their infancy - creating green mindsets; urban rewilding; and complexity management.
Changing attitudes and behaviours to give natural infrastructure higher priority and foster a management approach that works with nature rather than against, calls for a significant campaign to change minds.  The traditional approach to urban parks, gardens, verges is to keep them tidy and manicured – fighting nature. This is costly and reduces biodiversity. In wilder spaces, management is reactive, poorly integrated amongst various landowners, and ecological and social value is lost. To reverse these trends requires more integration, more stakeholder involvement in strategic AND day-to-day decisions (moving towards ‘shared stewardship’), and to welcome nature into the city so reducing maintenance costs. 
Plymouth will do this by:

  • Trialling different approaches in a diversity of spaces, experimenting with different delivery and management approaches which fully involve stakeholders and through community-based management forums - community-based budgeting; community rewilding mini-projects; pooled resources and joint programming; and developer partnerships for rewilding (green roofs, natural planting, green walls etc). This will include new best-practice investment projects, increasing understanding and inspiring more stakeholders to participate
  • Using a complexity management theory approach to underpin these experiments, based on a process pioneered in Plymouth’s public health sector.  Using best practice behaviour change tools, it will involve carrying out ‘Appreciative inquiry’ - detailed interviews (rather than simple surveys) with public, private and resident stakeholders.  This will gather a rich database of community needs and develop new networks for integrated service delivery and shared use of resources
  • Communicating what we learn widely and in creative ways to reach and engage new and diverse participants and encouraging others to do the same  
  • Using scientific and creative digital tools to make nature in the city much more visible and exciting to people.  We will develop these tools with stakeholders and communities ensuring they have the skills to be able to use them long term
  • Creating a stronger evidence base, assessing natural capital and its social value and a research and data management plan to keep this refreshed; develop a new ‘urban rewilding’ planning code; prepare action plans for upgrading and rewilding green/blue infrastructure and mainstreaming new structures and procedures. This will enable better targeted investment and maintenance decisions
  • Leading multi-stakeholder workshops and conferences; developing toolkits to disseminate the learning more widely
Partnership
  • Plymouth City Council
  • University of Plymouth 
  • National Trust - charity
  • Devon Wildlife Trust - charity
  • Real Ideas Organisation CIC - SME
  • The Data Place Ltd - SME
  • Plymouth College of Art
Expected results

Green Minds innovative approach to urban development and governance will result in:

  • Public and professional awareness and positive attitudes to urban nature increased by 50%. People across the city are more connected to nature, leading to positive outcomes for health and well being, biodiversity, and urban resilience to environmental change. 
  • 50% increase in residents enjoying and caring for green spaces. As a result, residents will feel more content, feel more a part of the community, and experience better health. 
  • Decision-makers, in both public and private sectors, see nature as an asset and make decisions to invest more in nature and our green/blue infrastructure and incorporate nature based solutions into the design of policies and physical developments – supported by seminars, workshops and a relevant toolkit
  • Landowners, users and other stakeholders working collaboratively as co-stewards of natural infrastructure, managing it to the benefit of people and wildlife together, pooling resources and expertise, and responding more readily to changing needs. Four new co-stewardship infrastructures established and operating.
  • More skilled and motivated land management workforce in place through 2 new skills programmes reaching 100 staff. As a result, the workforce will increase staff satisfaction levels by 50%, with a 40% reduction in sickness rates.
  • €2.15m is invested in 4 pilot sites to improve quality, biodiversity and value of GBI by 50%
  • Widespread and sustained public, media and professional interest in our ‘urban rewilding’ programme.
Main milestones

July 2020: Baseline monitoring survey completed ( attitudes to urban nature and quality of green/blue infrastructure) 

October 2020: Management trials initiated for investment sites 

March 2022: Open source data platform 

August 2022: Green/blue infrastructure investments delivered 

January 2020: Animation of the community engagement programme 

July 2022: Rewilding and planning seminars delivered 

The project in numbers
13
year life expectancy difference between the East and the West of the city
34%
of Plymouth is green space
50%
of Plymouth’s greenspaces is categorised as poor quality
20%
reduction in Plymouth City Council’s green estate workforce since 2012
3,995,496.56
Total ERDF budget granted
Contact of the project
Project Manager
Jemma Sharman

Related projects

Baia Mare
Baia Mare
SPIRE - Smart Post-Industrial Regenerative Ecosystem
Topic:
Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions
Population:
137.334
ERDF:
EUR 2 611 840.4
Duration:
01/09/2019 - 31/08/2022
Breda_Green Quays
Breda
GreenQuays - Urban River Regeneration through Nature Inclusive Quays
Topic:
Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions
Population:
184 025
ERDF:
EUR 4 699 229
Duration:
01/09/2019 - 31/08/2022
Latina - UPPER
Latina
UPPER - Urban Productive Parks for the development of NBS related technologies and services
Topic:
Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions
Population:
135,705
ERDF:
3,947,760.00
Duration:
01/09/2019 - 31/08/2022
Prato - PUJ
Prato
PUJ - Prato Urban Jungle
Topic:
Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions
Population:
194,603
ERDF:
2,959,792.00
Duration:
01/09/2019 - 31/08/2022