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Reconceptualising green space: planning for urban green space in the contemporary city

Whitten, Meredith (2018) Reconceptualising green space: planning for urban green space in the contemporary city. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Urban green space has risen up the policy and research agendas, buoyed by a heightened awareness of the role nature plays in addressing contemporary urban challenges, such as climate change, chronic health conditions and waning biodiversity. Lauded for their economic, environmental and social benefits, urban green spaces are presented as a policy and planning panacea as urbanisation continues at a rapid pace. In practice, however, urban green spaces do not realise this full potential. Instead of being managed as essential elements of a multifunctional, interconnected system of green infrastructure, green spaces are conceptualised as an ornamental afterthought, detached from the city around them. This is because green space planning adheres to an institutional and cultural focus on a form and function of publicly accessible green space established nearly 200 years ago in Victorian England. As such, a gap between the theoretical way urban green space is discussed and the practical way it is delivered leads to missed opportunities to address the impacts of urbanisation. Using qualitative research conducted in three Inner London boroughs, this thesis shows that, despite recognition that urban green spaces can provide vital contributions to the contemporary city, a conceptualisation of green space based on heritage has become institutionalised. This has led to planning, governance and funding processes that further embed a path-dependent way of thinking about green spaces as conduits to the past rather than as assets to address present and future needs. Yet, this research identifies three processes of change that, collectively, may break the path dependency: changes in the understanding of environmental systems, changes in population, demographics and preferences, and changes in governance. Together, these forces may open the door to reconceptualising green space as critical urban infrastructure that grows and changes with the city and makes essential contributions to urban life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Meredith Whitten
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Mace, Alan and Holman, Nancy

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