Exploring the critical factors and forces affecting the longevity and resilience of community-scale green infrastructure

Jerome, GM
(2017) Exploring the critical factors and forces affecting the longevity and resilience of community-scale green infrastructure. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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In an ongoing period of austerity in the UK, there is a growing assumption that communities will increasingly help deliver what have traditionally been seen as public services. This thesis seeks to explore the extent to which community groups make a significant contribution to the delivery and management of green infrastructure provision within a metropolitan context, using The Mersey Forest as the case study area. Whilst much has been made of the role of communities in managing land for food production the research identified that the range of community groups, and the differences between them in terms of their organisational structures and approaches to membership were in fact more nuanced and varied than much of the original literature suggested. Initially it was possible to create a typology of community-scale green infrastructure from a desk-search of 244 groups active within The Mersey Forest area. This provided a framework for defining, comparing and contrasting volunteer-led groups and projects actively managing sites of ecological or educational interest within their local environment. As a result, three distinct types of group were identified - Formal Group, Informal Group, Formal Project - differentiated according to approaches to governance, membership, funding, support and overall focus. This provided a thematic structure for exploring a number of case studies in more depth. Overall the findings of the qualitative study suggest that although community volunteers are a vital ingredient to the diversity of approaches to local greenspace management and environmental stewardship, the role of external stakeholders and professional bodies from the public and voluntary and community sector providing support and assistance is a crucial ingredient which is increasingly missing. In turn, the capacity of many groups and projects to achieve longevity and resilience in the face of unforeseen circumstance change, such as the end of a funding stream, or the discontinuation of a local authority funded environmental management role, is ultimately limited by the capacity inherent within the group; which in turn, is largely shaped around the experiential knowledge of individual members to capitalise on the skills necessary for land management and governance. From a policy perspective it can therefore be argued that ideological position encapsulated by the rhetoric of ‘The Big Society’ and legislated for within the Localism Act are inherently prejudiced towards groups and projects which can draw on individuals with experience of management, such as retired professionals in more affluent communities. In contrast, communities in less affluent areas are exposed to more risk with an inherently lower capacity for resilience; plus higher demands on existing budgets within these areas due to higher levels of public expenditure within areas of multiple deprivation, exacerbate an already pressurised situation. This finding is significant for the study and for wider decision-making in light of the mounting evidence illustrating the net positive benefits for health and wellbeing through regular access to natural greenspaces, particularly for individuals living in areas with high rates of health inequalities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: green infrastructure, environmental volunteering, environmental stewardship, community engagement, community participation, governance
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2017 08:39
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:05
DOI: 10.17638/03007211
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3007211