1.0 significant within the urban realm where public

1.0 Introduction

 

Landscape
architecture is a multifaceted discipline that has the capacity to deliver a
multitude of sustainable benefits to local communities and wider landscapes
through the implementation, utilisation and management of green infrastructure.
These benefits can have a profound impact upon the environment, economy and
society.

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Thoughtfully
designed landscapes contribute towards creating healthy communities and the positive
influences that good landscape have upon quality of life and social interaction
highlight the importance of landscape design (landscape Institute, 2012). However,
with regards to society, many of the benefits that can be achieved through the
implementation of green infrastructure can only be achieved through active
participation on behalf of the user.

The
ensuing literature review will form the primary research towards understanding
the key factors (both physical and non-physical) associated with park
accessibility to act as the foundations to research into discovering how to get
people more involved with local urban parks. Within this review the principle
benefits of green space will be discussed as well as the issues regarding the perceived
barriers that stop people from easily accessing all the key benefits green
space has to offer.

 

2.0 Discussion

 

2.1 Overview of the benefits derived from Green
Infrastructure and Urban Parks

 

The
Landscape Institute (2013) describe Green Infrastructure (GI) as “the network
of natural and semi-natural features, green spaces, rivers and lakes that
intersperse and connect villages, towns and cities”. Theses area are known as
GI assets and their roles within their environment are GI functions. Urban
Green Space refers to the Green Infrastructure present within Urban settlement
boundaries that hold socio-cultural value. In short, Urban Green Space is any
land or water body that is accessible to the public.  The functions that GI assets provide can have
benefits environmentally, economically and socially. This is significant within
the urban realm where public parks often act as the primary source of green
space and as such play a vital role in contributing towards providing a better
quality of life for residents of these areas (Tzoulas et al., 2007).

The
implementation of green infrastructure can have a multitude of positive
environmental effects. The adoption of green infrastructure naturally involves
a degree of habitat creation which is particularly important in more urbanised
areas where pockets of green space become isolated by grey infrastructure that
act like barriers. Green infrastructure creates corridors where wildlife can
move, therefore increasing local biodiversity (Town and Country Planning Association and The Wildlife
Trusts, 2012). As well as benefitting biodiversity, well designed green
infrastructure can reduce atmospheric and land pollutants whilst mitigated the
urban heat island effect and providing flood defences as a source control
through the implementation of SuDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) (Landscape
Institute, 2013)

Good quality green
infrastructure can be used as a key tool in the revitalisation of communities
from an economical view point. A high quality public realm environment can
significantly increase the economy in urban areas and as a result should be an
essential element of any regeneration project (CABE Space, 2004). This is
further enforced by the Landscape Institute (2011) who state that businesses
and communities can reap economic benefits when landscape and green
infrastructure is placed at the heart of the development process. Urban parks
and green spaces often act as the primary resource in providing leisure,
recreational and sport activities within urban areas which presents an
attractive setting for potential businesses and urban development (Bullock, 2008). In short, good
quality green infrastructure can; increase the value of both residential and
commercial properties which can increase tax yields for local authorities (reference); create vibrant
communities which are more attractive for business to invest in and provide
employment (Chiesura, 2004); attract tourism to an area and give local
residents a sense of ownership within their community, which can promote better
social well-being leading to increased work productivity (CABE Space, 2005).

With regards to society
benefits, urban parks and green space have a vital role to play within an urban
environment. Well designed and managed green spaces encourages outdoor activity
that has a direct impact upon reducing obesity (Mitchell, 2013), provides relaxing and peaceful
areas that can substantially improve physical and mental health (Kaplan, 1983) and reduce the
stress that can be caused by busy urban living (Ward Thompson, 2002). Urban
parks also present a forum for social cohesion and integration by providing an
area where people of all backgrounds can interact freely whilst reducing
criminal and anti-social behaviour which is less prevalent in well populated
parks (Coley et al., 1997).

The principle advantage
of green infrastructure is its ability to provide multiple benefits at once.
For example; The Landscape Institute (3013) state that the simple addition of
trees to an urban setting not only improves the aesthetics of the location but
also aids in reducing airborne pollution, providing shade, reducing urban heat
island effects, reducing atmospheric noise and improving biodiversity. However,
not all the benefits derived from green space are as easily accessible,
primarily because whilst some benefits have an instant impact upon the
surrounding area, other benefits require engagement in order to be obtained. There
are two main classification regarding green space and urban park benefits;
Off-site benefits and On-site benefits (More et al., 1988). Off-site benefits are those that
can be attributed to improving the local area without the local community
necessarily engaging with the specific site; These benefits are predominantly
those concerning the environment and economy. On-site benefits are those that
require people to actively use the green spaces in order to reap them; These
benefits are those associated with society, health and well-being (Latinopoulos et al., 2016).

Studies conducted within
the United Kingdom have shown that those people who live in more deprived areas
are likely to have access to fewer good quality green spaces and parks than
those who live in more affluent areas. National government policy is becoming
ever more focused on addressing inequalities in health associated between
deprived and affluent areas with the main solution being to prevent health
issues by encouraging healthy and active lifestyles (Landscape Institute,
2012). In order to achieve this green spaces, particularly urban parks, need to
be accessible to all people. Therefore, it is important to understand the
perceived barriers to accessibility of urban parks in order to achieve this
goal.

 

2.2 Perceived barriers park accessibility

 

            Accessibility is identified as a
primary factor in influencing the utilisation of urban parks (Wang, Brown and Liu, 2015). Gregory,
Johnston and Smith (1986)
refer to accessibility as the ease in which a site can be reached. This
provides a measure that allows the opportunity for use and contact with green
space to be evaluated. However, the concept of accessibility is
multidimensional that encompasses both physical and non-physical dimensions (Wang, Brown and Liu, 2015). 

            Traditionally, most research
concerned with urban park accessibility has been centred around spatial and
physical factors (Lindsey et
al., 2001), these are the factors that can be described as being
physical. Typically, these factors are measure quantitatively using the
following criteria; Distance to parks; Number of parks and park area per-capita
(Wang, Brown and Liu, 2015).
Research conducted by the World Health Organisation highlights green space
availability as a key factor in accessibility and suggests that the provision
of urban green space should be increased by local administrations to ensure
that there is a minimum 9m2 open green space available per capita (WHO, 2006). Accessible
Natural Green Space Standards (Handley,
2003) provided further research into special and physical accessibility
factors and determined that, as a benchmark, that all households should be
within 300m of an area of natural green space (Natural England SOT). This report further suggests
that the size of the green space should be at least two hectares (approximately
the size of two football pitches) and that this should be used as a standard
benchmark for local authorities in England to provide accessible green space to
the population in order to encourage community engagement. The criteria of park
distance and park size are recognised as important factors regarding the
likelihood of people using public urban parks (Giles-Corti et al., 2005). Like-wise, the ease of
access to urban parks contributes to making them a preferred location to visit
than larger national parks (Byrne, Wolch, and Zhang, 2009).

            Physical
factors associated with park accessibility are a simple means to gauge
relationships and correlations between distance, size and park use. However,
the concept of accessibility is more complex than this and research focused on
physical factors tend to ignore the more complex nature of socio-personal
dimensions in regard to accessibility (Brown, 2008).  Socio-personal
aspects of accessibility include potential barriers such as; culture and
language; race, gender and age; skills and knowledge; safety; and
socio-economic barriers such as work and home life commitments and available
leisure time (Gregory et al.,
2009). Where physical factors can be standardised across individuals, non-physical
factors regarding accessibility are much more personal and therefore can
provide greater differentials from one person to the next.

A key factor influencing socio-personal aspects of
accessibility is attitude. Eagly and Chaiken (1993) define attitudes as “a psychological tendency that is
expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or
disfavour”. Attitudes have direct
impact upon behaviour and as such are vitally important when understanding
accessibility issues (Baur,
Tynon and Gómez, 2013). This is important to consider in relation to urban green
space and park management as perceived attitudes towards a site can greatly
influence participation numbers. The ability to understand public attitudes can
assist in guiding strategic management plans through public awareness and
outreach programmes (Owens and
Driffill, 2008), as such is considered to be an important concept in
regards to accessibility. One of the most recognised methods in understanding
attitudes is the ‘tripartite model’ developed by Eagly and Chaiken (1993). The tripartite model
proposes that attitude is comprised of three elements: a cognitive component,
an affective component and a behavioural component. Cognitive components
respond to an individual’s logical and reasoned evaluation of an object or
place and is considered to be a conscious rationale. Affective components
relate to feelings and emotions within a person about an object or site. These
feelings tend to be unconscious in nature and represent a person’s innate
natural response either positive or negative. Finally, behavioural components
relate to past behaviours and experienced associated with an object or site.
This suggests that as someone recalls past experiences they recollect feelings
associated of that experience. For example, negative memories of an experience
recall negative feelings whereas positive memories recall good feelings that
increase the likelihood a revisiting the place they are associated with.

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