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The Green Network – from vision to reality

by Ally Corbett, Green Network Development Officer.

The Early Days

In 2007, when I started at GCVGN, the term Green Network wasn’t yet commonly used and what it meant wasn’t clearly defined.  It certainly wasn’t the central plank of national policy and strategy as it is now, and I think it’s fair to say the GCVGN has played a key role in getting us to that place.

As we move into the next phase of our evolution, and with the launch of our new website, it feels like a good time to reflect on some of our work and achievements that have driven the development and delivery of Green Networks, nationally, regionally and locally.

The term Green Network was first used in relation to Glasgow and the Clyde Valley in the 2000 Strategic Development Plan (SDP) where it was cited as one of 3 key themes for a successful City Region.  This was further developed in the 2006 SDP which started to tease out spatial and thematic priorities and, importantly, clearly stated that a Green Network wasn’t just a “nice to have” but must be a central consideration in planning and regeneration decision making.

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The GCV Green Network helped define what a Green Network is

It was unlikely this would happen of its own accord, so in 2007 the Green Network team was created to “work strategically” to “co-ordinate and facilitate” Green Network delivery.  That choice of words is important.  There was already a huge amount of great Green Network related work going on across the Region, but without collectively working towards an agreed vision and plan(s).  Our job was, and still is, to work with partners to develop that framework for delivery, and to support them work towards it.  

In the early days we cut our teeth on developing Green Network Strategies for some of the big regeneration initiatives of the time, Clyde Gateway, Clyde Waterfront and Ravenscraig.  This allowed us to develop our thinking on what Green Networks were and weren’t, how you would spatially prioritise delivery and what the delivery mechanisms might be.

Developing Green Network Thinking

Our strategic approach developed for the strategies mentioned above served us well and was replicated many times over the years, in a range of situations and at a range of scales, to very good effect.  They can all be found in our publications section and still provide valid reference points. See our film for a visual guide.

Leading the Way

In 2009 the Central Scotland Green Network was included as a National Development in NPF2, bringing with it an increased focus on all things Green Network, although sadly, with no funding to match.  GCVGN was, and continues to be, the regional lead for CSGN delivery and, over the years, has been a test bed for many of the ideas and approaches that have gone on to be adopted more widely.  Our work on Costing the CSGN, Planning for Green Infrastructure and the Blueprint have all been influential on how the Green Network is defined and delivered.

Our early work on integrated habitat networks is another example, and was I believe ahead of its time.  We’ve used its various iterations extensively over the years to inform our work, although it never really became mainstreamed in the way we’d hoped, until now.  With the new requirement through NPF4 for local authorities to identify Nature Networks, its time has finally come and is now, along with expert stakeholder input, forming the basis of that work for the Region.  Biodiversity enhancement through new development and the use of Green Infrastructure are also central tenets of NPF4, both of which have long been championed by GCVGN.

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Healthy grasslands like this are crucial for pollinators

The Blueprint – a City Region framework

After 10 years of our existence, the Green Network was mainstreamed into planning, health and well-being, biodiversity and regeneration policy and decision making.  Unfortunately, there still seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between that and widespread on-the-ground delivery. What was still missing was a Region-wide, strategic spatial framework that not only set out priorities for delivery, but catalysed an increase in the rate and scale of delivery by bringing new resources to the Region. That was a pretty daunting task.

In 2019, after two years of intensive work and detailed discussion with partners, we launched the Green Network Blueprint to provide that strategic framework. It immediately captured the imagination of decision makers and has been a key focus of our work since.  In particular, we’ve been successful in bringing new resources and capacity to the Region through our 5 Blueprint delivery initiatives. You can find out more here.

What does the future hold for GCVGN?  Blueprint delivery remains a central focus and we will continue in our efforts to ramp up delivery.  NPF4, with the Ecological and Climate Crises placed firmly front and centre, has opened up a series of new work streams, supporting partners meet the new requirements placed upon them. With 17 years of experience behind us, and the relationships fostered over that time, we are well-placed to provide that support.

After years of what often felt like banging our heads against a brick wall, it finally feels like our time has come and we are determined to fulfill our vision of of a sustainable and liveable place where people and wildlife can move easily through an attractive and diverse landscape.”

Here’s to another 17 years of successful partnership working!

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