GI can be defined as a planned network of multifunctional green spaces and interconnecting links.
The Northamptonshire GI has adopted a strategic and collaborative approach that, through regeneration, conservation and land management, addresses the environmental, social and economic aspects of growth and development, changes within both urban and rural landscapes, and the fragmentation of habitats.
At the strategic level, GI is an environmental system that supports the health, well-being , and aesthetic values of communities and the maintenance of functional ecosystems. It provides a process that makes the most of existing and future assets, enables the environment to support and maintain natural and ecological processes, and sustains land, air and water resources.
GI is integral to the health and quality of life of sustainable communities within Northamptonshire and throughout the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Growth Area.
Prior to the Northamptonshire assessments Green Infrastructure in the UK was traditionally applied to urban contexts, with GI strategies developed for particular built up areas of London to present strategies for linking areas of urban green space. however, Northamptonshire required a new and pioneering approach in recognition of the rural character of the county. In this respect, the Northamptonshire GI Strategy represents an important step forward in GI networks for both urban and rural areas at a sub regional scale of assessment. The approach evolved over the course of two independent studies.
The first phase explored GI planning for North Northamptonshire, and included a pilot study, comprising a local framework for Corby that provides a transferable methodology for further local studies. Following on from these studies, the approach was refined and underwent further consultation during the development of a GI Strategy for the west of the county. This refined approach was then applied to North Northamptonshire to establish comparable outputs and to allow the integration of the two studies into a single GI model and Strategy for the entire county.
The findings are present in 3 discrete but interrelated documents:
Sub Regional GI Corridors that have been identified for the county are intended to become fully multifunctional zones with the ability os the potential to deliver the following functions:
The Northamptonshire Green Infrastructure Strategy represents a significant shift in environmental planning in the county. It provides a positive long-term vision by defining an environmental infrastructure that promotes a functioning landscape of high quality and character that sustains urban and rural populations and gives an environmental context for development and regeneration, and also increases opportunities for access, leisure and recreation.
Like the Environmental Character Strategy (ECS) the Green Infrastructure (GI) Strategy will also lie at the heart of planning in Northamptonshire and underpin decision making at all scales and across all disciplines, and not just those that are directly related to the environment. It is an approach that can effectively draw together the skills, experiences and resources of a range of agencies, public bodies and the private sector by enacting a shared commitment to deliver GI in the county and through this make a positive contribution to the delivery of sustainable development, economic prosperity and quality of life.
Strategic policies and guidelines have been prepared to facilitate Green Infrastructure delivery in the county.
Green Infrastructure policies, which sit within the Core Spatial Strategies for North and West Northamptonshire, place a requirement on developers and other agents of environmental change to consider collaborative approaches to problem solving and find solutions that present multiple benefits across a number of agendas. It also encourages agencies that are not traditionally concerned with the environment to provide support and guidance to help ensure that new development contributes to their specific agenda, such as health, education and antisocial behaviour.
For example, a new housing development many have a particular requirement for a specified amount of recreation or green space.
By adopting the GI approach, and thus complying with GI policy, the layout of the scheme may be adapted or designed especially to provide improved connectivity through the provision of footpaths and cycle routes that are part of a strategic network; a space for nature that contributes to a larger sub regional pattern of connected habitat; and the provision of imaginative recreational facilities that give educational and physical health benefits to local people.
Additional benefit might be drawn from configuring the scheme to allow grey water recycling and sustainable flood water defences, with guidance from the police on designing out crime. Agencies would be invited to contribute specific advice and perhaps funding to deliver relevant parts of the overall scheme and through this help to meet their own targets and commitments. The adoption of such practices would secure a higher quality of development that enhances the environment and makes a significant contribution to the quality of life of current and future residents.