Swansea Central Area – Regenerating our city for wellbeing and wildlife
“A city with high quality multifunctional green infrastructure which delivers resilience, prosperity, nature, health, well-being and happiness to the citizens and visitors of Swansea”
Swansea Council and Natural Resources Wales partnered with Green Infrastructure Consultancy to produce a green infrastructure (GI) strategy for Swansea Central Area which includes a Green Space Factor tool, – a tool designed to measure the quantity and functionality of GI, .
Extensive engagement with a variety of stakeholders helped to foster a greater understanding of GI as a concept, and the multiple benefits it can deliver to the community and wildlife. The strategy is an excellent example of a bottom-up approach to planning GI.
Swansea Central Area
Strategy development – 2019 – 2021
Strategy timescale – 2021- 2044
What problem did it address?
There is clear evidence from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that by 2050 the Swansea Central Area will have periods of intense heavy rainfall, droughts and rising temperatures due to climate change. Failure to adapt to and mitigate for climate change is no longer an option, and the benefits delivered as well as the cost-effectiveness of GI are well documented means that it is a highly effective intervention to help communities to adapt to its impacts.
How did it do it?
The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015 in Wales provided the framework on which the GI Strategy was based. The Act requires public bodies to carry out sustainable development to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. The Act sets out five ways of working , which provided the modus operandi for the design and development of the strategy:
- Prevention – understand the barriers to implementation
- Integration – understand who is involved
- Involvement – extensive community engagement
- Collaboration – partnership working, multidisciplinary approach
- Long term – balance between long term trends and short term pressures
To develop the strategy, Swansea Council and Natural Resources Wales, worked jointly with Green Infrastructure Consultancy – who provided expert guidance – and other local stakeholders, all whom played a key role. In doing so, they set out to create a cultural shift locally with the view to affecting long-term change within the city, and to start a ‘conversation’ about the future of the city centre and the variety of ways in which GI can be used to improve people’s lives. At the beginning of the process, there were existing plans to regenerate the Swansea Central Area , which provided an opportunity to integrate the strategy as part of these plans.
While the GI Strategy is limited to the central area of Swansea, it is designed to connect with existing and new GI created to three wildlife corridors which border the central area providing oases of nature and tranquillity close to the heart of the city. The strategy proposes creating a new ‘green artery’ which runs through the city making it more permeable to both people and wildlife.
The strategy applies a set of overarching strategic objectives to:
- Provide a high quality nature rich environment
- Create a distinctive destination city
- Ensure the city is resilient to the impacts of climate change
- Ensure stakeholder and community involvement in the design and maintenance of GI, and
- Create a skilled and knowledgeable local economy to deliver an maintain GI
- Increasing terrestrial GI to 26% by 2030.
- Increasing canopy cover to 20% –25% by 2044
and by working with communities and stakeholders to design and development GI solutions, to encourage developers and land managers to use the Green Space Factor tool, to share best practice and build skills, to identify innovative ways to maintain GI.
Who has benefitted and how?
The GI Strategy aims to benefit everyone who lives, visits and works in Swansea, by enhancing the quality, quantity and functionality of and access to green space and the natural environment. It will also greatly benefit wildlife by supporting an increase in natural habitats in and around the city centre.
What was the cost and how was it developed?
The strategy was jointly funded by Swansea Council and Natural Resources Wales and included a budget of £30,000 supported by significant officer resource from both organisations as follows:
- engagement of Green Infrastructure Consultancy to provide technical support and their extensive experience.
- multi discipline and cross partner (Natural Resources Wales and Swansea Council) project steering group including officers from Planning, Regeneration, Nature Conversation, Parks Services, Sustainable Urban Drainage
- 2 project managers (one from Swansea Council and one from Natural Resources Wales)
- wide stakeholder input through workshops, events ,surveys and digital media from businesses, developers, architects, landscape architects, public sector staff, Swansea Councillors, local residents and visitors.
Evidence of success
At the time of writing (Nov 2020), the strategy is due to be adopted in early 2021 following completion of public consultation on the draft in 2020. The extensive engagement work carried out from an early stage has sparked people’s imaginations and encouraged a conversation within the community about what is possible to achieve with green infrastructure. Fran Rolfe, who helped to develop the strategy, explains:
“The only way a strategy is going to be successful, is if people want to use it.”
The strategy, successful engagement and further partnership working with Welsh Government, catalysed the development and delivery of a significant GI grant fund delivering capital GI schemes in urban centres across Wales. The success of the GI strategy thus far has contributed to regional and national GI conversations through national working groups and funding programmes and regional projects. The legal framework unique to Wales has enabled successful collaborative working at the local and national levels, which has helped to catalyse a GI agenda across the country.
A particular challenge for those leading the development of the strategy was centred around facilitating effective collaboration between a range of different stakeholders.
The extensive engagement and collaborative work carried out was particularly resource-intensive, time-consuming and required the right interpersonal skills. However, in part due to the none hierarchical flat project team structure, our willingness to be open and honest with each other. We were able to have a truly co-productive collaborative way or working.
For further information:
Penny Gruffydd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fran Rolfe, Fran.Rolfe@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk
To download the Draft Swansea City Green Infrastructure Strategy, please visit: https://www.swansea.gov.uk/greeninfrastructurestrategy