This was the background situation when Jeremy Carter and his colleagues from the University of Manchester started to develop the new baseline on green infrastructure within IGNITION. This new baseline subsequently became the city regions most accurate and comprehensive source of green infrastructure (GI) information. For the first time, integrated two-dimensional baseline information was available – GI on the surface as well as tree canopy cover data. This is important as street trees can also grow over grey areas (e.g. paths) and deliver nevertheless valuable benefits such as shading and cooling.
However, it was also recognised that the capacity of authorities and planners to access and analyse such spatial data to inform GI planning and implementation is generally low. Few are sufficiently confident with, or have time or resources to work with, Geographic Information System (GIS) to access and analyse GI spatial data. The new GM GI Explorer shall help to fill this gap, providing easy access to GI data and making it straightforward for planners to analyse this data to inform their work. Figure 1 shows the information held. Its two core functions are:
- Querying spatial data to enable the end-users to access and analyse GI data to support their GI priorities and objectives.
- Enabling the end-user groups to quantify, visualise and analyse the GI data at a range of intuitive and useful spatial scales that are meaningful to their work.
These functions make the GM GI Explorer a useful tool for a range of municipal workflows and tasks. Some potential applications have already been identified through discussions with IGNITION partners and other prospective end-users. The tool could be applied for:
- baselining and evidence building for GI planning and strategy development, climate action plans other projects in municipalities and districts (Figure 2);
- identifying and prioritising sites for GI intervention;
- informing the allocation of funding for GI projects by, e.g., screening funding applications;
- understanding user-defined sites such as supporting the development management plans of parks and other urban green infrastructure; or
- promoting the inclusion of GI in housing association schemes.
A real test of the tool has been done at a strategical level in Manchester city to learn more about its functions and use options.