A commitment in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the Green Infrastructure (GI) Framework supports the greening of our towns and cities and connections with the surrounding landscape. The Framework will help local planning authorities and developers meet requirements in the National Planning Policy Framework to consider Green Infrastructure in local plans and in new development. It can support better planning for good quality Green Infrastructure, and help to target the creation or improvement of GI, particularly where existing provision is poorest. The Framework is also being developed to enable other organisations and groups such as parks and green space managers and local communities to think more about Green Infrastructure and plan for its creation or improvement.
In December 2021, version 1.1 of the Green Infrastructure Framework was released as part of an introduction to the GI Mapping and Principles. Further development of the Green Infrastructure Framework took place during 2022, with the main launch in January 2023 to share version 1.2 of the Green Infrastructure Framework. Subsequent updates to the GI Framework will respond to feedback and reflect policy.
The Why, What and How principles of good green infrastructure.Green infrastructure Mapping Tool v1.2
Version 1.2 builds on the award winning v1.1 mapping database which provided national maps of green infrastructure overlain with socio-economic data on physical and mental health, deprivation, ethnic diversity. Version 1.2 includes new data layers such as: coastal access; activity places for sports, play and active recreation; combined green space and public rights of way inequalities maps; access to urban waterside, information on potential barriers to accessible greenspace (such as motorways and railways); and an “access points” and permissive access map.Green Infrastructure Standards
The voluntary Green Infrastructure Standards aim to improve the quantity, quality and functionality of green infrastructure. The Headline Standards provide a consistent way of setting out what good green infrastructure provision looks like and can help to identify and address inequalities in provision. They support Local Planning Authorities and developers in taking a strategic approach to Green Infrastructure and meeting the requirements in the National Planning Policy Framework to consider green infrastructure in local plans and in major new development.Green Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide
Provides evidence based practical guidance on how to plan and design good green infrastructure. It complements the National Model Design Code and National Design Guide and can be used to help planners and designers develop local design guides and codes with multifunctional green infrastructure at the heart. It will also be useful to landscape architects, urban designers, parks and greenspace managers and neighbourhood planning bodies.Green Infrastructure Process Journeys
Intended to assist different audiences such as local authorities, developers and communities to use the GI Framework to plan and deliver green infrastructure. They will help show how the products of the GI Framework can be used in different situations.A rapid scoping review of health and wellbeing evidence for the Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards
A review of evidence for the health and wellbeing benefits of green infrastructure.
The GI Framework is voluntary. It supports the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which sets out that the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by minimising the impact on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity where possible. Local authorities should set out a strategic approach in their Local Plans, planning positively for the creation, protection, enhancement and management of networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure.
The GI Framework will complement mandatory mechanisms such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) which form part of the Environment Act.
Green infrastructure is embedded in the National Model Design Code, which also already refers to the GI Framework. Under Planning Reforms, it will become mandatory for all local planning authorities to prepare design guides or codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code, and which reflect local character and design preferences.
Natural England will also be supporting LPAs in assessing their Green Infrastructure against the new Framework following the launch.
The GI Trials reported that the GI Framework helped to raise awareness of GI more widely as well as re-invigorating commitment to partnerships for GI. In one County Council the trial acted as a catalyst for two additional GI posts. In another trail area the GI Framework was a useful tool to discuss S106 agreements with developers. In another, GI standards embedded in the Public Open Space Strategy, which was adopted by the council in 2012, have helped to secure £15m through section 106 agreements.
We are designing the Framework to be accessible and easy to use including for those new to GI, and the products themselves are designed to support local authorities. Following the launch, Natural England will work with local authorities to support them in assessing their GI against the new standards. In addition, the GI Framework can help to foster cross sector working which can lead to enhanced evidence bases, shared initiatives, joint policy and a partnership approach to funding.
We trialled the draft GI Framework with 10 local authorities across England between October 2020 and March 2021. Since then we have consulted the housing and development sector (March 2022 – August 2022), 15 other Local Authorities (March 2022 – June 2022), and consulted stakeholders via the web portal (February 2022 – April 2022). We have worked closely with our advisory group made up of Local Authorities, academics, sector institutions, voluntary sector bodies, representative organisations and businesses, and a cross departmental steering group made up of government departments with an interest in GI. Natural England is committed to further consultation to refine the products and add additional elements to aid understanding and delivery.
The GI Framework will support and incentivise the delivery of new green infrastructure and can contribute to mitigating climate change and to making places more resilient and adaptive to climate change (see Why 5 Resilient and climate positive places).
For example, through urban trees sequestering carbon and providing shade and evapotranspiration that can help reduce daytime temperatures in urban areas and provide health benefits by cooling during heat waves; or through green and blue infrastructure that manages water and reduces flood risk. Attractive cycling and walking networks as part of GI corridors can contribute to CO2 reduction by providing active travel options.
Applying the GI Framework can contribute to the Government’s target to treble woodland creation in England to meet its commitments to create at least 30,000 hectares of woodland per year across the UK by the end of the parliament.
Yes, we have used Green Infrastructure as an overarching term for Green and Blue Infrastructure. There are many references to Blue Infrastructure typologies throughout the Framework, for example the ‘Why 4’ Principle on Improved Water Management has a strong focus on Blue Infrastructure. V1.1 of the GI Mapping Database contained core data on the Blue Infrastructure network and included an access to waterside assessment. In V1.2 we have added a new access to urban waterside data layer and information on coastal access.
SuDS are required by the National Planning Policy Framework. Defra’s recent review recommends that the government act and implement Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 as written, to make sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) mandatory for new development. This is subject to final decisions on scope, threshold and process.
The Green Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide provides high level guidance on SuDS as part of the suite of green infrastructure ‘building blocks’ that can be incorporated into new design. Green Infrastructure strategies should include plans to retrofit Sustainable Drainage Systems across local areas as part of the strategic planning of GI.
Funding for GI creation, management and maintenance will need to develop in partnership and consider a mix of public, private and third sector investment. Various government funds provide opportunities for GI funding.
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) will be one mechanism for funding investment in GI. BNG and District level licensing both provide funding for a 30-year management period.
The £9m Levelling Up Parks Fund is supporting the creation or significant enhancement of 100 green spaces across the UK on land, which is unused, undeveloped, or derelict. Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Mapping Database was used to help allocate funds to those areas with poor access to green space and high index of multiple deprivation.
There are a range of other funds and green finance opportunities that can support investment in green infrastructure as an asset that delivers key services for people, places and nature, for example through water company investment in Sustainable Drainage Systems; Business Improvement Districts greening of shopping centres to support local retail spend. The finance capital sector is increasingly factoring in commitments to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), for which GI is an attractive opportunity. Please refer to the GI Framework How 5 Principle ‘Managed, Valued, Monitored and Evaluated’ and findings from the Future Parks Accelerator The Potential of Green Finance and Habitat Banking for more information on funding of Green Infrastructure.
Natural England will seek to monitor and evaluate the Green Infrastructure Framework in order to understand its value and identify areas for improvement for users. Through developing a set of baselines, indicators and benchmarks, monitoring and evaluation will be undertaken on a systematic basis. The baselines will provide the initial basis for understanding change and will be followed by periodic reviews. Our monitoring and evaluation plan is informed by HM Treasury Magenta Book.
Natural England will also encourage stakeholders to carry out their own green infrastructure evaluations in line with government best practice and will publish further information on this in due course. We will support local authorities in assessing their green infrastructure against the new standards through a programme of training that supports uptake and delivery.
The GI Framework is a commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan and the outcomes of the plan will be captured in the 25 YEP Outcome Indicators Framework, under the Heritage Beauty and Engagement, specifically the G3 indicator for the enhancement of Blue and Green Infrastructure.
The Mapping Database provides a baseline over which change can be monitored. We are exploring the potential for the Mapping Database to be updated on a 5 yearly basis to allow for monitoring of change over time.
We will use this M&E data to understand how and whether the GI Standards should be adjusted.
Page 250 of Chapter 10 in the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 contains a commitment to "monitor and evaluate the impact of the Green Infrastructure Framework".
Natural England and Defra commissioned a range of reviews of academic and practitioner GI evidence, and current sector practice, from universities and environmental consultancies between 2019 and 2022.
Natural England has published a report on the development of the Urban Greening Factor for England including the analysis of evidence and current practice underpinning it .
A summary of all the reports will be published in due course. Consultation on the emerging Framework products has taken place in a number of phases with a broad range of key stakeholders. These activities included local planning authority trials, housing and development sector consultation, local authority consultation and a public survey consultation.
Following the launch in January 2023, we will seek feedback on the Green Infrastructure Standards. Over time we will monitor and evaluate the Standards. We will use these and other evaluation and reporting exercises to understand how and whether the Green Infrastructure Standards should be adjusted.
The Green Infrastructure Standards set out national standards for what good green infrastructure ‘looks like’ to create greener, beautiful, healthier and more prosperous neighbourhoods, that have a thriving nature network, lower levels of pollution (air and water), sustainable drainage, encourage active travel and that can adapt to climate change.
At Local Level, local authorities and communities assess and strategically plan their green infrastructure provision e.g. through developing a Green Infrastructure Strategy or other strategies and plans.
In assessing and strategically planning their green infrastructure provision, local planning authorities can apply the Green Infrastructure Standards locally, adapting them to local context where appropriate, and setting green infrastructure policies, proposals and development requirements in their development plans and local design codes.
Local Planning Authorities can set SMART targets, in a Delivery Plan, for achieving the Green Infrastructure Standards and local policies over time.
The GI Planning and Design Guide contains useful information on how the GI Standards can be applied in different ‘area types’ from dense urban areas to rural areas. Most of the GI Standards have been developed for application in urban areas, but there may be circumstances where they can also be applied in rural areas.
The GI Standards can be incorporated (and adapted as needed) into statutory development plans and local design codes, which will give them weight in the planning system.
Through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Local Planning Authorities will be required to prepare local design codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code. The Green Infrastructure Standards and the Green Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide can be used to help develop the green infrastructure elements of local design codes.
As a non-departmental government organisation, Natural England must be fair and transparent in promoting standards that are owned by other organisations, and not show favour or bias, especially where there is a commercial model in operation. The full Menu of Green Infrastructure Standards will include selected standards and guidance that are owned by other organisations. The Signposting Table aims to be a comprehensive and open resource of green infrastructure standards. The Menu and Signposting Table will be published in due course.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is putting in place a requirement for Local Planning Authorities to prepare mandatory local design codes for their whole plan area. These can be prepared either as part of the Local Plan or as a supplementary plan. The Green Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide provides practical evidence-based guidance on how to plan and design good green infrastructure. It complements the National Model Design Code and National Design Guide and can be used to help planners and designers develop local design codes with multifunctional green infrastructure at the heart.It sets out
The Process Journeys are intended to assist different audiences such as local authorities, developers and communities to use the GI Framework to plan and deliver green infrastructure. They will help show how the products of the GI Framework can be used in different situations.There are currently three process journeys
We had originally intended that there would be a process journey for development managers, but following consultation with development managers they were in favour of a development management checklist for GI. This is a product that we are considering for development in the future.
Version 1.2 brings together data from about 50 datasets and has required a whole range of assumptions, simplifications, combinations, interpretations and generalisations to create workable maps.
We cannot check the exact details for every land parcel on the map so what the map says can be at variance with the situation on the ground.
This underscores the importance of ground truthing and supplementation with local data (and knowledge) in order to create a more accurate local product when required.When reviewing the content of the mapping it is important to be aware of sources of error. There are four principal sources of error in the mapping.
It has not been possible to provide a feedback system for this version of the mapping to identify individual mapping errors. However, please refer to this page for details on how to report errors to the data owners.
With Version 1.2 now launched, further work is underway to develop Version 2.1 of the GI Mapping Database in 2023/24.This will have significant new contenet including#
Plans for the future also include the potential to undertake major reviews of the mapping, and the development of change detection approaches, potentially on a 5 yearly basis to allow for monitoring of change over time.
Yes, the maps will be available as open downloads of the shape files. Local authorities can supplement the GI Mapping Database with more local data for their own purposes. We will work with data owners such as Ordinance Survey to develop ways in which the GI Mapping Database can be updated to reflect more local data where these are available and are shown to be more reliable.
No. The mapping only shows the green spaces that are available to be accessed, and the potential demand for them from demographic data. Actual estimates of visit numbers and economic values to accessible green spaces and paths in England can be freely accessed from the University of Exeter’s Outdoor Recreation Valuation Tool (ORVal), which has been funded by Defra and recommended by HM Treasury for use in cost-benefit analysis. ORVal uses a sophisticated model of outdoor recreational demand based on Natural England visitor data and a similar but less comprehensive accessible green space map to that in the GI Framework. ORVal can also estimate the effect on visits and values from creating new or amending existing sites.
We want to be ambitious, and we recognise the size of the challenge, but think that now is the right time to be making the case, given the strength of the evidence base, on the benefits of GI. We want to see a continuous improvement of the quantity and quality of green infrastructure in line with the 25 Year Environment Plan and encourage innovative ways to achieve this. The GI Framework will help, alongside other mechanisms like Biodiversity Net Gain. In addition, the mapping is intended to provide a baseline position that will permit monitoring of change over time.
The GI Framework will work alongside Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), which will set a minimum requirement for a 10% net gain for biodiversity for new development. BNG is designed to encourage habitat protection, enhancement and creation on-site and in the local area where possible, helping to support GI which is accessible to local communities. Managers of urban parks and other green infrastructure will be able to become providers of biodiversity units provided they are able to create new or enhance existing habitat on their land and meet the relevant eligibility criteria.
The Biodiversity Metric that is used to calculate biodiversity net gain includes within it many common green infrastructure habitat features, including sustainable drainage systems, green roofs, green walls, and their inclusion in a scheme design can contribute towards meeting BNG requirements. Full guidance on the use and application of the Biodiversity Metric is available. Guidance on applying BNG in development should be followed. The benefits of BNG are set out in a brochure. Guidance for mandatory BNG is currently being developed by Government and will be available shortly.
The GI Framework can help to enhance the functionality of habitat delivered as a requirement of BNG. The emphasis in the Framework on the multiple benefits of GI can help ensure nature delivers wider benefits for people as well as biodiversity.
The Green Infrastructure Standards, including the Urban Greening Factor (UGF), promote nature-rich environments that increase the functionality, sustainability, and climate resilience of urban areas. UGFs can be used alongside BNG, especially on sites with no or very limited pre-existing biodiversity value, to drive urban greening by helping to set the quantity and functionality of green infrastructure that should be delivered on-site. Natural England’s voluntary Environmental Benefits from Nature tool is designed to work alongside BNG and UGF to enable more detailed consideration of wider environmental benefits for people and nature. Natural England is considering the development of a tool that feeds BNG calculations into UGF and EBNT calculations for ease of use and added functionality value.
Some Biodiversity Net Gain delivery may incorporate access. Where this is the case, the GI Mapping Database can help identify where there are gaps in accessible green space that new measures could address. It could also help to target these measures to areas where they are most needed e.g., in areas of high deprivation.
Environmental net gains aim to reduce pressure on and achieve overall improvements in natural capital, ecosystem services and the benefits they deliver. For example, habitat improvements can provide a range of benefits such as improvements to soil, water and air quality, flood risk management and opportunities for recreation. Green infrastructure can deliver multiple functions (or ecosystem services), which could contribute to wider environmental net gains. Tools such as NE’s Environmental Benefits from Nature can be used to support multi-functional GI at site level.
Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs) are new locally led, mandatory spatial strategies for nature required by the Environment Act 2021. LNRSs are tools designed to drive more coordinated, practical, and focussed action to help nature which will support the establishment of the Nature Recovery Network. The strategies are intended to work closely alongside other measures in the Act to support delivery of mandatory biodiversity net gain and provide a focus for a strengthened duty on all public authorities to conserve and enhance biodiversity. They will also help to develop partnerships and to integrate nature into our incentives and land management activities.
LNRSs will draw on other relevant spatial plans and strategies such as GI strategies. This will enable LNRSs to support the delivery of green infrastructure policies that promote nature conservation, particularly in urban areas.
GI strategies and polices can be used to support aspirations for a Nature Recovery Network (NRN), connecting across urban, urban-fringe, coastal and rural areas and enhancing landscape character. Applying the new Headline Green Infrastructure Standard for Urban Nature Recovery will help to support the creation and restoration of wildlife rich habitats. Green infrastructure will also help urban districts and local authorities, in particular to meet their statutory duty to conserve and enhance biodiversity.
The GI Mapping Database can provide a data layer that informs the mapping of areas important for nature recovery, including nature-rich corridors that support movement of wildlife, and the data can feed into the Local Nature Recovery Strategies and the NRN. In the next phase, the GI Mapping will include more detailed urban habitat and naturalness maps.
The mapping of accessible natural green space can be used alongside local data to provide information on how the NRN can function to enable everyone to access and connect with nature close to home.
Future environmental land management schemes will deliver improvements to public access in the countryside. The Agriculture Act 2020 states that funds can be used for “supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment”. We are currently exploring with Defra how this will be interpreted. Defra is working with stakeholders and end users to determine the specific land management actions that will be paid for under our new schemes (the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery scheme).
Government launched a public consultation on 22nd December 2022 on reforms to national planning policy following the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. It identifies better planning for green infrastructure among likely changes to national planning policy needed in the future.
Green infrastructure is currently embedded in the National Model Design Code, which also already refers to the GI Framework. In addition, based on current planning policy:
The GI Framework is a commitment in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. It is feeding into the Outome Indicator Framework for the 25YEP, specifically the G3 indicator for the enhancement of Blue and Green Infrastructure. These indicators help us to show how the environment is changing over time. Under the Environment Act, the 25 Year Environment Plan is the first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) and will be reviewed by January 2023.
The GI Framework will work alongside other measures in the Environment Act such as Biodiversity Net Gain and Local Nature Recovery Strategies as set out above.