Importantly, researchers found a great variety of ecological expertise among residents' groups; allotment associations, and others such as wildlife groups, including practical skills and local knowledge picked up through everyday observations, acquired know-how and shared enthusiasms. As a result, their report calls for a 'redistribution of expertise' to ensure that valuable local skills and knowledge are tapped by scientists and planning authorities responsible for green spaces.
Among examples of local action they describe are an informal group of Birmingham residents fighting alongside a wildlife trust to save a site threatened by fly-tipping, off-road driving and dog walking. Others include a project aimed at working with a local community to make better use of community gardens, many of which have been long abandoned and are a danger to public health. And they cite examples of people who organise regular wildlife surveys and clean-ups in their local woods.
A forum entitled 'Living cities: a new agenda for urban natures', was staged by the research team in December, 2003. It was favourably received by participants as a rare opportunity for people making decisions at national and city level to talk face-to-face with local residents' and activists' groups.
Professor Whatmore said: "This project has strengthened our grasp of the practical know-how, passionate enthusiasm and ecological concern that city residents bring to bear in creating various kinds of urban green space.
"And our findings challenge policy makers and scientists to engage the knowledge of ordinary local people more constructively in the future."
Contact: Becky Gammon
Economic & Social Research Council