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The High Line copyright James Corner Field Operations

Central Scotland could be set to follow the lead of world cities like New York and Paris by adopting innovative approaches to greening its urban areas. 

The ‘Cities Alive’ approach advocated by Arup, one of the UK’s leading firms of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, could see Central Scotland embrace ideas used in The High Line in New York and the Promenade Plantee in Paris, where obsolete structures have been given a new purpose through the retrofitting of green infrastructure.

The Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) is focused on transforming the central belt into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.

Tom Armour, Director at Arup, is the keynote speaker at the forthcoming CSGN Forum ‘Changing Our Cities and Towns – Changing Lives’ and is also one of the main authors of ‘Cities Alive’ which is rethinking green infrastructure and sets out a vision where the power of nature can be used to address issues of rapidly urbanising populations and deteriorating climate as well as reducing transport and energy costs.

He explained the importance of this approach for Scotland: “Global research has shown the wide social, economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure and it should be an essential partner in the planning and design of cities and urban environments. Given the importance of green infrastructure for people’s health and wellbeing, it should have the same status as other services like waste, energy and transport and be planned, designed and managed as these resources are for people.”

Keith Geddes, Chair of CSGN, is keen for Central Scotland to benefit from this innovative approach.  He said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Central Scotland to learn from the expertise of Arup and from their knowledge and experience of worldwide green infrastructure solutions.

“At CSGN we are focused on implementing schemes of all scales from larger initiatives through to small projects that add up to a greater whole. Every street tree, living wall or living roof will all help bring nature back into our towns and cities.  It would be fantastic if town centre managers and Business Improvement Districts in Scotland could adopt some of Arup's ideas.”

The positive impact of Arup’s work can already be seen in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. The park has created a healthy environment encouraging walking, play, cycling and running whilst linking to the wider networks along the Lea Valley Regional Park and providing integrated flood protection, biodiversity and planting to clean the area.

Tom believes that Denmark, Holland and Germany are leading the way in delivering urban greening however he still looks closer to home for inspiration.

He said: “I am lucky to have worked extensively across the world and to have been able to enjoy, and learn from, some excellent examples of greenspace. However my favourite is Hampstead Heath in London which is close to my home. It lies in the middle of a huge urban area but provides a real escape and is truly beautiful at all times of the year. There is always something new to notice about the beauty of nature.

“The Yorkshire Dales are also special to me. I spent my childhood and youth there and it leaves such a lasting impression.”

The CSGN Forum – sponsored by Arup - is the leading greenspace and green infrastructure conference event in Scotland and will be held in Edinburgh Conference Centre, Heriot Watt University on 2nd June 2015 from 9am to 4.15pm. To register click here.