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The contribution of urban greenspace to quality of life (GREENSPACE)


Each of the project partners undertook an analysis of public preferences in relation to the component attributes of green space and different types of green space. In most of these projects this has involved the application of forms of conjoint analysis. In Dublin a choice experimental approach has been taken which has included an economic assessment of the value of green space. Issues of green space size, naturalness, safety and composition have been examined in this context. Mixed logic analysis has also been used to review the variation in green space use between different users, including regular and irregular users. Mixed logic has also been used in Eindhoven where researchers have also examined the intensity of green space use depending on time of day or week. In Aberdeen and Barcelona contingent rating and choice experiments have been given added realism through the use of 3D visualizations and photomontages to examine issues of weather/climate, safety and play facilities.
In Stuttgart, ecological mapping using GIS technology has been applied to different types of urban green space. The mapping exercise has identified areas of natural and artificial vegetation and has indicated the vulnerability of these areas to human pressure. On the basis of this information, public surveys have been used to evaluate the importance of natural areas within the cities parks.
The DSP represents a strategic planning tool for the provision of urban green space and also a medium for communication between planners and public. The package designed by the Macaulay Institute and Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland provides a spatial (GIS) representation of green space types which links to a database on household location, bus and road networks. The package provides information on the accessibility of green spaces to individual households, which can also be grouped by neighbourhood. Public preference data on green space types and 3D visualizations are incorporated within the package. A related package has been prepared the Technological University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. This is also a GIS based system which combines public preference data for green space types and use with spatially presented data on the socio-economic characteristics of different neighbourhoods. The package can also be used to represents the socio-economic impact of modifications to green space or the effect of a new green space on the use of existing open spaces.
The Public Participation (PP) has been an important component of the study to which all consortium members have contributed. For some of the study partners, PP at the level of market research has been sufficient to yield the primary data needed to the conjoint analysis or visualization models that have provided tools for interactive workshops and exhibitions. For others, focus groups, consultations and deliberative forums provided a valuable dialogue with participants. The result is a large body of data developed and expanded through the participatory process. Overall, the benefits have been tangible for both the decision-makers and the public. Feedback at all levels (L1 - L4) has been very positive and to this extent it is highly likely that a more informed and engaged population can provide a positive input to local green spaces and the issues involved in managing them. PP has allowed green space practitioners and the public to appreciate their reciprocal difficulties and needs. Certainly, in the case of the deliberative exercises, participants have been empowered in ways not previously open to them, and people were able to participate in a more informed way. Whether this is more democratic is, however, a moot point. Often the results from postal surveys and consultation exercises are skewed towards the articulate middle classes. At the very least, the process has given a greater say to those who would have been involved anyway, although use of door-to-door surveys and focus group recruitment procedures have ensured a wider representation. For the full potential of PP to be realised, municipalities will need to consider how best to collect and harness market research type data. Officials involved in the project felt that the very process of sharing information allows people to understand more fully how council decisions are made and that this in itself improves local democracy. The Brighton & Hove case study demonstrated the potential for long-term sustainable deliberation and how a group can be supported to uphold inclusively, equity and fairness. Furthermore, the visualization and DSPs developed by the project demonstrate that there are innovative ways of attracting people to provide information. The Aberdeen partner's use of libraries, community centres and exhibitions as a means of getting the visual imagery to a wide audience is an innovative and valid use of technology. The PP has provided a direct input to the DSPs, which, in turn, are available to assist with PP in the future by virtue of their interactive design. The project has therefore addressed the objective of demonstrating means by which economic and visualisation techniques can be combined with public participation to inform decision support. At the conclusion of this work package, the consortium had developed and applied a range of PP techniques covering the levels at which PP conventionally takes place. The benefits of PP in green space management have been detailed. Rather than just concluding that there is one level of PP which is to be preferred, the work suggests that different levels of PP are appropriate in different contexts, for different issues, institutions and potential outcomes. What does emerge strongly is the link between the availability of good information, the consultative skills and willingness of city councils to engage in genuine PP and the degree of engagement felt by many citizens.
Visualization (2D photomontages, 3D virtual reality, viewpoint & walk-through visualizations) have been used by the Scottish, Swiss and Spanish teams as a communication tool to provide information to support the survey and focus groups approaches to eliciting people's true preference for green space attributes. In addition, visualization was applied by the Zurich team as a direct research tool to investigate people�s reaction to issues such as enclosure/safety, management intensity and the inclusion of wind turbines. The application of visualization for green space research is demanding given that it has been combined with GIS and must represent detailed soft features (i.e. vegetation). However, where communication is the goal, results can be achieved with less sophisticated static 3D images. Thus visualization has been a useful research and communicative tool. The urban parks studied offer the prospect of a greater understanding of human behaviour. It is important to ensure that as reactions to visualization derive from the critical psychological domain and not simply from an aesthetic one. Thus the main substance of the virtual images is not the aesthetic, but instead the capacity to open a discussion or to transmit a message. From the consideration that knowledge is based on experience, the presentation of a virtual park, can transform an "authentic" experience into an interpretation of multiple and different contexts. The use of information and communication technology not only plays an important role for the representation and for the analysis of urban parks, but also provides potential for the active involvement of citizens in the decision making and in the management of the urban parks.