As urbanisation increasingly puts heavy pressure on open spaces, efforts to preserve urban green areas have been growing in recent years. Municipalities can act by adopting a plan to restore derelict green areas and fringe areas in their territory in order to remove pollutants from soil and water, improve the habitat for wildlife, reduce the urban heat island effect and protect against soil erosion and floods, while offering recreational green areas for the local residents.
This best practice covers two related types of green/brown areas of relevance in the environmental management of towns and cities, and focuses on the improvement of the environmental value of the sites.
The two types of areas considered are:
- derelict green areas, which have been designated as parks or natural areas but no longer provide optimal environmental value and should be restored
- fringe areas (most at risk of urban sprawl), which act as a buffer zone between urban and rural areas, usually at the outer edge of urban settlements where urban and rural activities exist and interact.
The management of derelict and fringe areas can be governed by the concept of green infrastructure that addresses the connectivity of ecosystems, their protection and the provision of ecosystem services, while also addressing mitigation and adaptation to climate change. In practice, green infrastructure promotes integrated spatial planning and investment in ecosystem‑based approaches delivering multiple benefits in addition to technical solutions, and mitigating adverse effects of transport and energy infrastructure.
Fringe and derelict areas can be restored and improved by:
- cleaning, signposting and connecting fringe/formerly derelict areas as well as increasing access to all members of the community
- including, if feasible, on-site renewable energy generation
- including pedestrian and cycle paths where a new development is proposed in fringe and derelict areas
- promoting green roofs, sustainable urban drainage systems and other mitigation measures to reduce surface water run-off
- constructing features that ensure flood minimisation
- maximising public open space and linking into a network of existing and new open spaces
- establishing strategic approaches to urban fringes with special attention to green infrastructure and spatial planning
- at the regional/national government level, providing guides for government policies and actions on the pattern and intensity of land use, the provision of public facilities, including transportation, and the development of human and natural resources
- identifying and evaluating area housing, employment, education and health needs and plans to meet those needs
- preparing regulatory and administrative measures to support the entire plan.