An Ecosystem Services Approach to Green Infrastructure Partnership Planning

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: The Centre for Environmental Policy


It is widely recognised that ecosystems provide numerous services that are of benefit to humans but, in decisions regarding land and resource use, these tend to be overlooked. Within towns and cities this is particularly the case as nature is often considered to be absent in urban areas. However, as nearly 80% of the UK population live in urban areas there is considerable potential for improvements in ecosystem services to have a large impact on quality of life. As a result the Defra funded Ecosystem Services in the Urban Water Environment (ESUWE) project has begun to apply an ecosystem services approach to demonstrate the benefits that improvements in the urban water environment can have. It has also been recognised that a collaborative approach to decision making assists with the integrated planning that is required for sustainable catchment management. Therefore, the work of ESUWE also aims to provide tools to communicate and engage stakeholders in order to facilitate a participatory approach to catchment management.

The ESUWE project has identified numerous ecosystem services provided in urban environments and developed metrics to quantify the costs and benefits associated with these. It is now working in four demonstration areas of varying sizes to map and evaluate ecosystem services and to pilot use in local catchment planning. It is hoped that by communicating information about benefits of environmental improvements, decisions can be better informed and that by mapping ecosystem services, areas where interventions will result in multiple-benefits can be identified and prioritised.

Throughout the ESUWE project, Green Infrastructure (GI) has been highlighted as being important for delivering benefits to urban societies along with providing environmental and hydrological improvements. Therefore, the potential to expand the scope of the work beyond those directly involved with catchment planning has been identified. The Innovation Project will enable the application of the research conducted under the ESUWE project to meet the needs of a wider range of end users such as local nature partnership, local planning authorities and construction companies to be investigated so that the impact of the work can be increased.

The Innovation Project will facilitate co-development of an ecosystem services mapping approach to the planning of GI with those responsible for land use decisions at local and national levels. This will ensure that the needs of end users are incorporated into the development of decision support tools that facilitate GI planning and help create standardised metrics that can express the benefits of GI for use in differing sectors.

Work in four demonstration areas will explore the practical application of the ecosystem services approach, demonstrating the benefits provided by GI and identifying opportunities for these to be increased. This will improve strategic understanding so that the effects of potential land use decisions on levels of services provided in urban area can be explored. This will help to provide an evidence base that can inform decisions regarding trade-offs and promote interventions that provide increased and multiple benefits. The Innovation Project will also result in case studies quantifying the value of GI which can be used to promote the need for increased considerations of its provision in land use decision at both local and national levels. A partnership approach will also identify how mapping can aid integrated local decision making to support other place based initiatives. Finally, by considering how GI can be implemented in a way that delivers multiple benefits, best practice will be identified and promoted.

Planned Impact

By expanding the work of the Ecosystem Services in the Urban Water Environment (ESUWE) project the main impacts of the Innovation Project will be to increase the effectiveness of public services and policy making at local and national levels to enhance quality of life.

The work of the Innovation project will share information regarding the services that Green Infrastructure (GI) provides, to enable decision makers at both local and national levels to better understand the benefits that can created. The quantification of the value of services and the effects different land-uses have on provision of these will enable greater understanding of the implications of decisions. This will enable trade-offs to be better understood and opportunities for benefits to be maximised.

The testing of the approach in the demonstration areas will highlight the use of ecosystem services in facilitating a partnership approach. This will create communication outputs that encourage a wider range of stakeholders to engage with land use planning and environmental improvements. This, along with the creation of standardised approaches, will help to work across differing disciplines and sectors. Furthermore, facilitating dialogue will provide greater opportunities for shared objectives and multiple benefits to be identified, leading to more integrated planning and more efficient use of resources.

By quantification of the effects that land use change has on the levels of ecosystem services provided, an evidence base for mitigation measures will be developed, thereby assisting in the allocation of funds raised under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Furthermore, the work to develop stand-alone tools has the potential to increase the capability and capacity of local authorities which are increasingly required to compensate for financial restrictions.

Through engagement with private companies the project has the opportunity to deliver economic impacts. The resources produced will enable construction companies to more efficiently identify and design GI opportunities. Companies will also be able to quantify the benefits of these, encouraging greater buy-in from other sectors and communities.
Finally, by promoting the use of GI within urban areas there will be significant societal impact. The work will apply metrics that have been developed to quantify the effects of GI on health and well-being, providing a case for increased levels of GI provision. The mapping of these metrics will enable the identification of areas where GI can have the most impact, for example, in areas of social deprivation and health inequalities.


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Description The project enabled close working with Local Authorities (Southampton and the Greater London Authority) to identify the challenges for environmental improvements and to facilitate input from the public sector into the development of a method to assess and communicate urban ecosystem services and natural capital.

The work also led to the mapping of ecosystem services in Southampton and ways to include information on health and wellbeing being explored.
Exploitation Route The work can be used by others applying an ecosystems services approach and promoting environmental improvements in urban environments. The recommendations to include health and wellbeing data can also be used to develop new research opportunities and to ensure that future research has increased impact with local decision makers
Sectors Environment

Description The project enabled new collaborations with local authority decision makers to be formed. This enabled input from research end users into projects looking at how to use information on ecosystem services to support environmental improvements in urban environments. Awareness of methodologies to assess and communicate ecosystem services was raised with local decision makers and mapping of ecosystem services and natural capital in Southampton was undertaken. This is being used by the council to promote environmental improvements within the town. In addition the work has led to a project assessing the barriers and enablers of Green Infrastructure projects. Here interviews with practitioners regarding their thoughts on green infrastructure implementation were carried out. This was also supplemented by in depth case studies and semi-structure interviews with those involved with successful Green Infrastructure projects. The findings of which are being used to create recommendations to improve Green infrastructure planning for local authorities and environmental NGOs. This year the work has provided inputs to the NERC GI Innovation Program Review and also helped to form ideas for an application to NERC's Regional Impact from Environment Science Program. 2018-2019 The work fed in to a successful proposal for European Interreg funding that is investigating a business case for GI and how to improve GI implementation at the local level. The work investigating barriers and enablers was used as a pilot study to inform the development of proposals to use semi-structured interviews to identify factors that affect funding decisions across the 2 seas regions.
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Nature Smart Cities across the 2 Seas
Amount € 6,380,472 (EUR)
Funding ID nsciti2s 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2018 
End 02/2022
Description British Geological Society - 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided input regarding the catchment based approach national policy, outputs from the Catchment planning and management knowledge exchange fellowship and work on GI planning
Collaborator Contribution Provided input regarding Groundwater and Integrated Modelling
Impact A proposal for NERC's Regional Impact from Science of the Environment program
Start Year 2018
Description Greater London Authority 
Organisation Greater London Authority (GLA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Shared research and current methodology for assessing and communicating ecosystem services in urban environments
Collaborator Contribution The GLA hosted us for meetings and presentations and provided input to the development of the methodology. They also promoted its use in the review of the All London Green Grid
Impact The GLA have used the methodology and findings to review the All London Green Grid information
Start Year 2016
Description Southampton City Council 
Organisation Southampton City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Meetings and presentations were held to enable two way information exchange about the use of ecosystem services and the challenges of implementing environmental improvements in urban environments. Here methodology that had been developed was presented and explored. Mapping of the ecosystem services provided in the City of Southampton was undertaken and presented with the Council
Collaborator Contribution Local decision makers and public sector workers at Southampton City Council hosted meeting with us and provided input to the methodology being developed. They also shared with us the challenges they face in implementing environmental improvements and made suggestions that would improve the utility of the work
Impact Input from the Council helped to shape the methodology developed and full ecosystem services maps were created and shared with the council. the use of these to inform the planning of environmental planning is on going. The work also explore the inclusion of health and wellbeing data in ecosystem mapping and has led to ideas for further research.
Start Year 2016
Description Meetings with Southampton Council 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A series of meetings with Southampton Council were held to discuss the use of ecosystem services in the planning of urban environmental improvements
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Meetings with the GLA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A series of meetings to discuss the use of ecosystem services in the planning of urban environmental improvements and how this could be used in the review of the All London Green Grid
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
Description Presented at the Natural Capital Initiative workshop on Embedding the Natural Capital Approach in the Built Environment: From Strategy to Design, Implementation and Maintenance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented at the Natural Capital Initiative workshop on Embedding the Natural Capital Approach in the Built Environment: From Strategy to Design, Implementation and Maintenance
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017