The “Swansea Central Area: Regenerating our City for Wellbeing and Wildlife” strategy has been officially adopted. This ambitious strategy sets out the vision of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Swansea Council for “A city with high quality multi-functional green infrastructure delivering resilience, prosperity, nature, health, well-being and happiness to the citizens and visitors of Swansea.”
A landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises that by 2050 the Swansea Central Area will have periods of intense heavy rainfall, droughts and rising temperatures. In this strategy Swansea Council and Natural Resources Wales send a powerful message that failure to adapt to and mitigate for such a climate change scenario is no longer an option, if we are to maintain an economically prosperous hub for the Swansea Bay City Region.
Environmental sustainability is the basis for a resilient and prosperous Swansea. It requires current generations to choose how they meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to be able to do the same.
Green Infrastructure, commonly referred to as GI, is the term used to describe all the green space, soil, vegetation and water that provide the ecosystem services that make places more liveable. This includes, for example, streets, trees, green roofs and walls, natural play spaces, wildlife, nature gardens, pollinator corridors, landscaping, drainage and air quality management solutions.
The benefits and cost-effectiveness of green infrastructure are now well studied and include reduced flood risk, summer cooling, cleaner air and water, reductions in noise, better mental and physical health, gains in biodiversity and a strengthened economy. The economic benefits of green infrastructure are increasingly being recognised, for example, in terms of savings compared to drainage infrastructure, reduced heating and cooling costs of buildings, increased property values and creation of green job opportunities.
Wales has legislation; the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Environment Act, which requires that people work together to protect and enhance nature for the long-term benefit of all. Wales also has the requirements of the Flood and Water Management Act and Statutory Standards for Sustainable Drainage Systems which requires a new approach to the sustainable management of surface water. The provision of green infrastructure will enable us to meet these requirements, and this strategy aims to create investor confidence in green infrastructure by describing how it will be applied in the Swansea Central Area.
A joint strategy between Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Swansea Council is pretty unique in itself and one of its big strengths. There’s already been a lot excitement around its creation which has helped NRW and Swansea Council achieve much so far.
As the strategy is simply a tool, it can only be successful if it’s used. It can only be used if people know about it. Although specific to Swansea, it’s useful far beyond the city centre as a guide to what GI is and for anyone across the region wanting to push urban GI. Fran Rolfe, Sustainable Places Officer at Natural Resources Wales, recommends it as a go to document for people to learn more.
Natural Resources Wales made it into a learning document to tackle the lack of knowledge understanding and expertise there is and that’s not a unique issue to Swansea. They will also be bringing out an infographic articulating the strategy to normal humans. This utilises the consultation exercise they did with schoolchildren helping to translate the jargon. NRW wanted to let them find out how they’d used their early involvement in its development and get their input into the formal was accessible to them.
The strategy sets out a vision for a city with high quality multifunctional green infrastructure, which delivers resilience, prosperity, nature, health, wellbeing and happiness to the citizens and visitors of Swansea.
The 5 Principles of Green Infrastructure to be applied to achieve this vision:
- Multifunctional – making sure that all GI in the city centre provides as many benefits as possible. For example, it may reduce pollution and/or flooding, offer shelter and/or food for native animals (birds, insects and/or small mammals), provide shade during hot summer days, and create attractive pleasant and/or calming spaces for people to meet, relax and play
- Adapted for climate change – absorbing water to reduce flooding, providing summer cooling and accommodating wildlife. GI also helps mitigate climate change by capturing and locking up carbon
- Healthy – helping our physical and mental health by absorbing pollution, providing clean air, clean water, food and space to exercise, socialise and play and space to have contact with nature
- Biodiverse – supporting a wide variety of native species providing shelter and food and creating green corridors across the city centre linking to existing strategic wildlife corridors
- Smart and Sustainable – providing solutions, techniques and technologies that are low maintenance and reduce pollution and waste and maximise the use of recycled or sustainably sourced materials
Success will be measured via a number of performance indicators which will work towards targets to double (from 13% to 26%.