Ecological Sustainability and Urban Green Space

Tidaholm and Trollhattan - Pilot Study

Urban Density and Green Structure Case Studies

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Pilot studies of the green structure in public planning in

Tidaholm and Trollhattan.

Elisabet Lundgren Alm, Department of Architecture, Chalmers University, Sweden

Summary of progress:

These two pilot studies, undertaken in the Swedish municipalities of Tidaholm (9,000 inhabitants) and Trollhattan ( 40,000 inhabitants), are directed at issues concerning the relation between green structure and public planning and decision-making processes. In this connection, green structure denotes all areas within the urban zone which are either green or unsealed (not built or paved over). Special attention is given to the question of whether the green structure is handled in a separate or integrated way in relation to urban planning as a whole. The studies are based on the following three questions:

1. How is "green structure" looked upon as a concept as well as a physical phenomenon by the different public "actors" and in different planning documents?

2. How is green structure handled in public planning and decision-making? Which concepts are used? Which green structure functions are being realised?

3. What forces determine the development of green structure? What potential does green structure have for the overall urban development?

 

The pilot studies indicate that there is a huge difference in area between both the "actual" and "formal green structure" (the green structure designated in city plans). While the actual green structure represents all unsealed and non built-up areas in the urban zone, the formal green structure represents areas marked as "green" in public planning documents. About 70% of the total actual green structure in Tidaholm consists of formal green structure. In Trollhattan about 40% of the total actual green structure is planned formal green structure. These differencies are represented by areas that can be identified as urban fringe, private gardens and areas with different uses and landowners. Thus, these non-designated green spaces often offer the potential for the development of an ecological solution to technical problems. The use of the actual green structure as an instrument in public planning and decision-making seems to be on the increase, probably due to growing ecological awareness which does not pay any attention to the ownership of different sites. The two studies also point to the difficulty of being precise when discussing the role of green structure in urban design and planning. Discussion tends to stop at an abstract level and this applies especially to structural planning.

 

Since green structure became an individual element in urban design and planning, the social and aesthetic aspects are considered the most important in the planning and decision making processes. At present, when systems for technical facilities are rapidly dated and the concentration of people creates environmental problems, ecological aspects of green structure are becoming more important. Even so, it seems to be quite difficult to translate these aspects into practical, usable knowledge for urban design and planning. An important explanation for this situation relates to the increased specialisation in science.

 

It is possible to identify the organisation of green structure planning as an important force in the development and status of green structure. Individual, dedicated employees can also have a lot of influence on the way these issues are handled. In smaller towns, as in Tidaholm, green structure planning is often organised in a way that reflects limited economic resources. In such an organisation, the green structure issues are often handled on a structural level by an urban planning department. The result is that the green structure issues are dealt with at a relatively early stage in the planning and decision-making processes. In bigger towns and cities such Trollhattan, public planning is most often divided between several departments, each with their own responsibilities. This may make it difficult to obtain an overview of the green structure issues. In Trollhattan the solution to this problem has so far relied on the employee responsible for ecological issues at the municipal level,who is devoted and able to inspire both politicians and employees in other departments.

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