Urban Green Network Quality

An urban green space network, or multi-functional green infrastructure, can make an important contribution to people’s quality of life, the conservation of biodiversity and to adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. Within this context, there is a need to better understand and measure what is meant by a ‘good quality’ green space network, and the potential it offers for achieving sustainable and desirable urban places. This infographic highlights six principles identified in the research as important in understanding what makes a good quality urban green network as a whole. The principles form part of ‘SIGNpost’, a tool that offers one possible approach to assessing the quality of a network and informing the development of policies at a landscape scale.

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urban green network quality infographic

Green network concept

An urban ‘green network’ includes all types of urban green spaces that together form a matrix of spaces that may or may not be physically linked. The ‘quality’ of a network is defined as the ability to deliver social, environmental or economic benefits for people and wildlife.

The concept of a green network, or multi-functional green infrastructure, is widely accepted as integral to sustainable development. Improving the quality of a green network should be seen as a core element in creating sustainable, resilient and competitive urban areas that are desirable places to live and attractive places for businesses to locate. However, it can be difficult to translate the green network concept into detailed policies which deliver a network that is of good quality.

Quality principles

Research has identified six principles that are considered key to a better understanding of what quality means when taking a strategic view of a network of urban green spaces. The principles focus on what is important at a network scale, and together define the scope and priorities for determining a network’s quality. Together they create an easily understandable framework which conveys the network concept to policy makers. Ultimately, this should not only improve understanding of that network, but also help in its delivery.

The six network quality principles are: quantity, proximity, linkage, biodiversity, flood risk and cooling. They fall naturally into three groups: ‘greenness’, ‘connectivity’ and ‘performance’.

Greenness is concerned with the ‘quantity’ of green space in an area and the ‘proximity’ of accessible green space close to homes. Connectivity considers the ‘linkage’ of spaces that improve access for people and the ‘biodiversity’ network of habitats. Performance looks at how well a network provides environmental infrastructure in reducing ‘flood risk’ and alleviating high urban temperatures through ‘cooling’.

Informing and developing policy

Defining the principles that are fundamental to the quality of a network makes it easier to determine whether urban policies (often covering themes which at first glance are not environment-related) are taking the green space network and its features into account. Clarifying how to measure and monitor good quality in terms of an urban green network would provide a clearer link to policy.

The SIGNpost tool not only brings together the six quality principles, but also provides spatial indicators, a grading system and policy directions to operationalise the concept of ‘quality’. It therefore has the scope to be genuinely useful to policy makers: by applying the tool, they are ‘signposted’ as to how urban planning policy should be developed in order to improve or maintain the quality of a green network/green infrastructure.

SIGNpost tool

The SIGNpost guide details the four components of the tool: quality principles; recommended spatial indicators; a grading system; and policy directions. Indicator scores can be entered into the SIGNpost results dashboard. The dashboard automatically converts the score for each indicator into the relevant grade and policy direction.

To get your free copy, subscribe to JONO Design e-news and you will receive a PDF of the guide and the results dashboard Excel spreadsheet in your inbox. Sign-up to receive the e-news via the special SIGNpost form.


O’Neil J. (2013). Determining the quality of an urban green network. PhD thesis. Glasgow Caledonian University.

O'Neil J. & Gallagher C. (2014). Determining what is important in terms of the quality of an urban green network: a study of urban planning in England and Scotland. Planning Practice & Research, Vol. 29:2, pp. 202-216.

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The SIGNpost guide and dashboard is only available to subscribers of JONO Design e-news. To get your FREE copy, sign-up to e-news using the special SIGNpost form.

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