An integrated approach to green infrastructure and masterplanning

High on the built environment agenda for its role in delivering biodiversity and supporting wellbeing, Green Infrastructure (GI) is a term used to describe green spaces and corridors, such as woodlands, trees, hedgerows, parklands and play spaces. Its integration early into the Masterplanning process is fundamental to the quality of proposals as well as maximising development viability. But too often a siloed approach to Green Infrastructure stifles the adoption of more dynamic, integrated and forward-thinking solutions.

Mike Barker, Site Development - Technical Director

The top takeaways

In our latest Leading Minds webinar RPS’ Director of Urban Design, Jonathan Stewart and Director of Ecology, Mike Barker, discuss a developer-focused, integrated approach to green infrastructure masterplanning.

So, what were the top takeaways?

Green infrastructure assets and green infrastructure functions


GI assets range from country parks, lakes, woodlands and play areas to urban interventions such as green roofs and walls as well as street trees within the public realm. They can form part of sites at a local level or consist of broader environmental features at a landscape-wide scale, within and between rural and urban areas such as wetlands, moorland and the general open countryside.


GI functions are the roles that assets can play if planned, designed and managed, and are sensitive to natural features and ecosystems. Each asset can perform different functions at the same time, which is commonly known as multifunctionality.

A good example of GI functions are street trees, which add an aesthetic quality to the public realm, but will also:

  • Reduce airborne pollution
  • Provide shade
  • Reduce urban heat island effects
  • Mitigate wind chill and turbulence
  • Increase biodiversity

Planning ahead for GI

Developers need to be aware of an area’s strategic GI goals and appreciate how those goals contribute to mitigating the environmental impacts of new development, in order to create beautiful places.

Considering GI in the context of early masterplanning allows:

  • The integration of natural features into proposals that can support biodiversity and water management
  • The opportunity for diverse habitats to flourish, ensuring a healthy natural environment that supports and enhances biodiversity
  • Attractive open spaces to be provided in locations that are easy to access, promoting health and well-being

Considering biodiversity at the early masterplanning stage can allow for site-specific enhancements and help developers achieve biodiversity net gain (BNG) targets. Existing areas of valuable biodiversity can also be protected and enhanced as part of development proposals.

GI improves and enhances water management

Early masterplanning of water management and infrastructure can form part of an integrated system of landscape, ecology, and drainage. Benefits such as multifunctional green sustainable drainage systems will improve the attractiveness of open spaces, and provide opportunities for play, interaction, and relaxation. 

From a hydrological perspective, the benefits of considering water management at the early masterplanning stage include:

  • Controlling flood risk and public safety
  • Increasing net developable areas because of the use of multi-functional spaces
  • Reducing pollution runoff
  • Potentially increasing development value
  • Contributing to both nutrient and water neutrality
  • Providing options to capture energy and heat
  • Enhancing place and community making
  • Providing softer, more attractive, natural, attenuation solutions with less engineering and therefore lower costs

High-quality open green spaces

The provision of public open space is needed for all new developments as part of local planning policy requirements. This is usually calculated on a per 1000 population basis and differs among Local Planning Authorities. Areas of usable green space should be designed to be high quality, robust and adaptable. Over time they need to remain fit for purpose, and adequately managed and maintained for continual use.

Adopting an integrated approach

The challenges we face today are too often approached as separate issues. There’s not enough consideration given to the complex interactions between housing, flood management, food growing and biodiversity. This siloed approach often stifles developers from adopting more dynamic, integrated and forward-thinking solutions.

The knowledge and understanding of masterplanning green infrastructure, however, has grown enormously, with the concept becoming prevalent at all levels of government, the private sector, and the public.

GI masterplanning offers a way of not only tackling specific challenges head on but realising multiple secondary benefits at the same time. Together these synergistic benefits really add value to developments and their open spaces.

You can re-watch the webinar below. 

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