A couple of months ago we wrote about the participation of Santa Pola Council in the Urban GreenUp programme. 

This programme aims to develop nature based tools and solutions to improve the urban environment. Our council’s  involvement in the programme requires it to commit to learning from the Urban GreenUp programme with an aim to implementing similar solutions in its urban areas. 

We have written to our local councilor Oscar asking what the council has learnt so far from its participation in Urban GreenUp and what we can expect to see implemented in Gran Alacant; unfortunately we have not yet received a reply. 

We reached out to the Urban GreenUp project team to learn from them directly about their work. We joined a fascinating webcast where some of those participating in Italy and the UK talked about the type of schemes being trialed in Verona and Liverpool. These schemes include local planting schemes to reduce rainwater runoff and regulate temperatures in Liverpool by replacing traditional concrete and tarmac with planted areas and permeable surfacing. The University of Liverpool team have so far recorded excellent results from their trial projects. 

Between Christmas and New Year we spent a few days in our regional capital of Valencia which is also  leading in progressive urban design and planning. Valencia is always a joy to visit but we were especially interested to learn why it has been selected by the EU as the European Green Capital for 2024. In awarding the role to Valencia the EU Environment Commissioner noted that Valencia and other cities were “working hard to build a healthier and greener environment for their residents and are an inspiration to others. They show that the ambition of the European Green Deal to build resilient societies is the only way forward. Cities are at the forefront of this transition and with the progress made so far, I truly believe that we can build a greener and fairer Europe for all.”  

Valencia is bringing real change to its urban environment through nature based solutions. The city is building nature into the fabric of the city through a range of developments. These include ribbon parks and green corridors through the city which act to moderate temperature, regulate moisture and control flooding whilst providing pleasant and enjoyable walking, cycling and recreational routes. In addition, the city is supporting the development of urban allotments returning the traditional huertas to the city. Similar to Liverpool, Valencia is also experimenting with replacing hard concrete and tarmac with soft landscaping and permeable surfaces to trap rainwater and avoid local flooding. We noticed that the city is installing pavement planters in side streets, similar to what we have seen in Hamburg and Barcelona. 

The effect of the planted green areas in Valencia was noticeable; it feels cooler and more comfortable. Studies have shown that vegetation in urban areas has a surprisingly substantial effect on reducing local surface temperature and not just through shading by trees. However, it requires more than planting a few street trees and laying some grass to bring about a real improvement: The sun baked streets of Gran Alacant will need a proper reengineering if we are to enjoy the same benefits as the citizens of Valencia! It will be interesting to hear from our council how they intend to rise to the challenge of using what they have learnt from Urban GreenUp to reimagine Gran Alacant and Santa Pola town. As average temperatures start to rise due to climate change it will become important to mitigate the effects of this; the heatwave of the past year demonstrated that we have no time to lose if we are to make our town more habitable.  

Gran Alacant currently has some big building developments under way, these schemes must include features similar to those now being built in other cities and towns if we are to enjoy a good quality of life. Santa Pola council is our local planning authority. It has the power to make a real difference to these developments by demanding that these new schemes include the type of nature based solutions that the council has committed to in the Urban GreenUp programme that it so energetically participated in. Simply letting developers pour concrete and tarmac is no longer acceptable, as our council knows only too well! We will be keeping a very close eye on the design of new developments in Gran Alacant and hope to see the fruits of our council’s new knowledge (and EU funding).

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