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Posted: 16 September 2008

Environment Minister announces Green City Guidelines

With our increasing awareness of how human activity affects the natural environment, we must rethink how we provide our housing, transport and sanitation, according to new advice guidelines launched by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Mr John Gormley at University College Dublin on 15 September 2008.

The new ‘Green City Guidelines’ provide easy-access and practical ways that local authorities, planners and property developers, can protect and enhance biodiversity while developing medium to high-density urban schemes.

The idea is to in effect give nature a voice in the planning of our urban areas, by raising the awareness of the value of biodiversity within urban developments. The amenity and recreational benefits of natural environments are obvious, but these environments also support our basic requirements of clean water, fresh air and food supply. The well balanced and functioning natural environment of the ‘Greener City’ also offers a more attractive place for people in which to live and work - the restorative and psychological benefits of nature have long been acknowledged.

“The essence of these new guidelines is that I want residential developments in our cities, towns and villages to be respectful of their environment, to be protective of their environment and to be places to live in that will stand the test of time in terms of environmental and social impacts”, says Minister Gormley.

“Many of us living in urban developments may feel that nature or biodiversity is something to be found outside the city, in the countryside or in our national parks.  As more and more of us live in apartments and high-density developments, it is important that biodiversity be a part of these communities.  These new guidelines provide practical advice on how this can be achieved, through appropriate and considered development”, adds the Minister.

Cities and urban areas are often located where biodiversity resources are concentrated - on rivers, hilltops, and along the coast. In many cases the environment has been so heavily altered that its ability to support the original diversity of life located there is severely diminished.

Biodiversity features include: trees and woodland, hedgerows and shrubs, grasslands, watercourses and ponds. These guidelines review key stages in the planning system, existing guidelines on biodiversity integration and examine case studies from a selection of urban areas in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council.

“Ultimately we would hope that every planner and property developer in Ireland is encouraged to consider ways that they might incorporate biodiversity management into developments and as a result help to improve the quality of urban life,” says Frank Convery, Heritage Trust Professor of Environmental Policy at UCD and Director of the UCD Urban Institute, the leader of this project.

“Although Ireland has made a number of commitments to reduce biodiversity loss, it is often difficult to provide practical examples of how this might be done in the urban setting,” says Larry Stapleton, Director, EPA Office of Environmental Assessment.

”The Guidelines draw on international research and examples from Irish urban areas to demonstrate good practice in the planning and design of urban residential development so that biodiversity loss can be protected and where possible enhanced accordingly as areas mature.”

To develop the new advice guidelines the report examined the leading international standards and investigated a range of development sites within the administrative boundaries of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council.

The Green City Guidelines project, is part of a wider Urban Environment Project ( project involving NUI Maynooth, TCD and ERA-Maptec Ltd., it is funded by the EPA under the National Development Plan.

The Steering Group acknowledge the work of Natura Environmental Consultants who were commissioned to produce the report on which the Guidelines are based.

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Minister launches advice guidelines for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity in medium to high-density urban developments