This chapter looks at a variety of topics concerning the interaction of people and urban green space, including people’s perceptions of green spaces, the way they use them and how much they care about them. It also includes a discussion of how various levels of intervention by people affect the natural development of habitats and green spaces.
These topics are important for understanding and assessing the value which people place on green spaces in towns and cities, and how much they want to intervene to control them, so that decisions about particular sites can be reached by consensus.
Discussions about options for sites can expose conflicts, but also open up possibilities as people become aware of existing values of sites, and their future potential for wildlife and the local community. Every interest group has its own priorities. Local councils may want tidy green spaces that are cheap to maintain. Police and residents’ groups may want areas to be regulated and supervised, so that anti-social or criminal behaviour can be controlled. Parents may want safe orderly play areas with climbing equipment and safety mats, but their children may prefer bushes for making dens, fallen trees, streams and slopes to slide down. Improvement schemes for community areas that include benches, pergolas and other features may look fine on paper, but local residents are often the ones who are not surprised when they become a focus for anti-social behaviour and vandalism. Naturalists or conservationists may have their differences too. Some may find the development of communities dominated by naturalised alien species exciting, whereas others view them with horror and only value native species. Poorly planned schemes for habitat enhancement may be worse than the habitats they replace, both for people and wildlife. A marshy area replaced by a badly made pond will probably look worse and be of less value for wildlife. Tree planting in grassland may spoil a site valuable for flowers and butterflies.
In most rural areas, agriculture is the dominant land use, with wildlife and people secondary, albeit sometimes benefiting from the agricultural use. Green spaces in urban areas are free of this restriction, and have exciting potential for wildlife and people.