Paths and green networks

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Paths obviously do not exist in a vacuum and working out ways to improve the environment around a path will have benefits for the people using the path (a better experience) as well as the environment itself (improved biodiversity). One of the ways of thinking about this is to look at the idea of linking path development with green networks.

A green network is made up of the greenspaces that are found within and around villages and towns, which link out to the wider countryside. It can include areas such as parks, graveyards, allotments and other open space within an urban area as well as the larger green spaces such as woods and grass fields in rural areas. Crucially, green networks can also include paths, and other transport corridors.

green space

Green networks can help improve the biodiversity of an area by allowing plants and animals to survive and move through built up areas. But green networks are also designed to benefit people. A good green network will incorporate paths and other active travel routes so that more people can get around without having to use their cars. This is not just good for the health and social well-being of the people who live there – having good access to green spaces can have economic benefits as well. For example, developers will be able to get a better price for houses in areas with good green networks and businesses may be more likely to have their offices in places where their employees can get out and about. That means green networks can have social, environmental and economic benefits, so many local authorities are keen to develop them in their areas. Some Local authorities are now producing supplementary planning guidance on green networks (for example, this is what Highland Council has produced - Green Networks: Interim Supplementary Guidance) and may have mapped out potential green networks in their areas. Within the central belt, there are several green network projects – including the Central Scotland Green Network and the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green Network.

If you are developing a path network in your area, it should link in with any emerging green networks. You can check with your local access officer to see what planning guidance and green networks mapping have been produced in their local authority area. If there are indicative maps published, you should be able to see how to ensure your paths fit within this bigger network. If maps have not been published, you should still try and think about how your paths can have maximum benefit. For example, are there places where a new path will link up two green space areas? Can you create a wildlife corridor that will also serve as a route for commuters to use to get to their shops, offices or school? Could you improve the design of your path to ensure it has maximum environmental benefits, or conversely, are there areas which are currently just being used by wildlife (for example, tree shelter belts) which you could use as part of a path network?

The precise details will vary depending on your local situation, but the over-arching principle is to look at the surrounding landscape when planning your projects. That way your path can have multiple benefits and, because green networks are important to the government, you will have a better chance of getting funding.

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