Christine Tudor reports on Birmingham City University’s recent conference examining the rural-urban fringe through spatial planning and the ecosystem

The rural-urban fringe is changing

Led by Professor Alister Scott, ‘Managing Change at the Rural–Urban Fringe’, held on 29 Febraury, formed part of the Rural Economy Land Use (RELU) Programme. It was the culmination of an 18-month research project examining how the rural-urban fringe is changing and why, and how we can more effectively understand and manage changes in places of such uncertainty, diversity, and transition.

The day commenced with a presentation on The Todmorden local food initiative from Pam Warhurst (chair of the Forestry Commission, chair of Pennine Prospects and co-developer of ‘Incredible Edible’)  who illustrated a bottom-up approach to engaging local people in their landscapes.

Jacqui Stearn, Natural England’s London 2012 programme manager, followed this with a presentation on The Rural Urban Fringe as opportunity space: The Olympic Park, highlighting the top-down approach to embedding green infrastructure principles in the Olympic Park. She referenced Sir Patrick Abercrombie – renowned for the post-Second World War replanning of London and the New Towns movement – and highlighted five key lessons that seemed to reference landscape’s heritage: “notice the shoulders you are standing on”; “seize the opportunity”; “hold a vision”; “make friends and offer leadership”, and “share what you learn”.

Alister Scott, Professor of Spatial Planning and Governance at Birmingham City University, acknowledged the legacy of past work on the rural urban fringe, referencing Ebenezer Howard, founding father of the Garden City movement, and the key roles played by the Countryside Agency and its predecessor the Countryside Commission in influencing policy and practice around our towns and cities. This included discussion about the Countryside Agency’s research programme (2001 – 2006), which informed significant policy developments regarding green infrastructure and multi-functional landscapes, and the associated research by Dr. Nick Gallent and his team at Bartlett School of Planning, University College London.

Keynotes were provided by: Prof. Jim Harris, Spatial Planning meets the Ecosystem Approach; Dr Mattias Qvistrom,  Making new connections in the Rural-Urban Fringe; Dr Martin Phillips, Changing Values of Communities in the Rural-Urban Fringe; Prof. Jeremy Whitehand, Taking a long view of urban fringes/ Looking backward to look forward in the urban fringes of Birmingham.

For more information about RELU’s research project, click here

Christine Tudor is a landscape specialist at Natural England

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