Birmingham City Council – Green Living Spaces Plan

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Green Living Spaces Plan


Birmingham City Council


The aims were multi-layered:

  • to change the political profile of urban green space
  • to introduce an evidence-based policy taking an ecosystems approach
  • to capture and demonstrate the multiple benefits of green infrastructure
  • to establish the importance of and links with climate change adaptation and health
  • to use the Plan as a mechanism to engage business and the future economy


The Plan had to be re-written twice in light of political and legislative changes. Obtaining funding and support for pioneering the ecosystems approach was difficult as was having to shift expectations and mind-sets regarding the end-goal of the Plan.  Specific to local authorities was determining the Plan’s place in the planning hierarchy and crossing professional and departmental boundaries.


  • Natural England
  • Environment Agency
  • UK Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • ceep – Consultancy for Environmental and Economic Policy
  • BOSF- Birmingham Open Spaces Forum

Project delivery

The Birmingham Green Living Spaces Plan introduces seven key principles across the planning framework, they are cross-cutting and reflect the ecosystems approach. The Plan’s evidence base includes the UK’s first citywide ecosystem services assessment and the compilation of a multiple layered challenge map for the city – a global first. The Plan also introduced Natural Capital as an approach including a Natural Capital (City) Planning Tool.

Meeting aims and overcoming challenges

A cross discipline working group was established to ensure that all stakeholders were sharing knowledge. Having external endorsements and support provided the necessary momentum for development of the Plan. As a means of overcoming delays associated with waiting for Government guidance, local decisions were made.

The Plan became stronger, more concise and more integrated with each version and the success of the first assessment led to further funding for extended assessments.

Learning points

It was hard to change the entire brief due to national legislative change but the nine-piece jigsaw process worked very well. As a pioneer it is hard to know whether a new approach will work; now we know this approach does. The Plan is now a template and baseline for others to work from and improve.

Some think the Plan too ‘radical’  – the Planning Inspectors judgement will decide.


  • The Plan has been cited as best practice in the NEA Follow On project 2014
  • The Birmingham Development Plan is still draft and will be adopted in spring 2015
  • The draft Natural Capital City Tool has attracted additional funding
  • The evidence base created for the city has led to the ambition of a 25 year Natural Capital Plan, to be drawn up by the city and adopted within its balance sheets
  • The Plan led to the invitation for the city to join the Biophilic Cities Network


The Plan has received a number of endorsements from Professor Sir John Lawton, Poul Christiensen, Chairman Natural England, CEO Woodland Trust, Director of Public Health-Birmingham, Teresa Heinz, Professor of Sustainable Communities, University of Virginia, Tim Beatley.

It has also been cited as national best practice in both the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow On project synthesis Report – UK Government 2014 and Farrell Review of Architecture and Built Environment – Department Culture Media and Sport, UK Government 2014.

SWM comment

A global first for anyone is an achievement to shout about and certainly one that warrants as a good practice example. It shows that Birmingham City Council’s vision and ambitions were realised and have been acknowedged, despite some challenging external forces. Hopefully the Plan will pave the way for others to follow.


For more information email Nick Grayson at


Green Living Spaces Plan

Brindley Place
Cannon Hill Park
New Street
St. Philip’s Square
Birmingham Open Spaces Forum
Natural England
Woodland Trust
UK Business Council for Sustainable Development