Green Infrastructure as a concept? A critical consideration
GI brings to light that the strategic connection of multifunctional, natural and managed green areas provides an array of benefits for people (Davies & Roe, 2011). It recognises that access to good quality as well as a high quantity of green space (Tzoulas et al., 2007) is not simply a superficial amenity, but rather a fundamental necessity (Benedict and McMahon, 2012). Existing studies address the wide benefits GI may bring, these include the improvements and protection of human health and well-being (Tzoulas et al., 2007), reducing urban heat to improve thermal comfort (Klemm et al, 2015) and developing links between urban and rural neighbourhoods (Environment Agency, 2005). However, there is huge variety between GI’s socio-economic and environmental contributions, which therefore creates problems in defining GI. Although definitional ambiguity has granted the concept adaptability to the multitude of concerns both temporally and spatially, it has spurred a lack of understanding of what GI constitutes on the ground. Wright (2011:1013) argues this could lead to GI being a ‘corruptible concept’ in which political actors manipulate the concept for their own agenda, jeopardising the opportunities for the unification of nature preservation, urban growth and public welfare (Tzoulas et al., 2007). In order to tackle this, Wight (2011:1007) suggests that rather than pressing for a single explicit definition, notions of “connectivity, multifunctionality and green" should serve as the concept’s foundation. However, Mell (2013) counteracts this and asserts that prescribing to a set of principles is constraining, and ambiguity may enable the best methods for execution for GI. These difficulties with how scholars and planners have utilised the term GI has expanded further, for instance, the term is often used interchangeably with green space without much critical thought and consequently weakens GI’s ‘conceptual strength’ (Matthews, Lo and Byrne, 2015:157). This then undermines GI fundamental principles as green space is often considered as recreational sites and segregated parks, whereas GI should be distinguished by the connectivity of natural areas among other spaces that are managed and protected for their benefits (Benedict and McMahon, 2006).