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Yesterday, we held the first panel debate in our ‘Cities’ series with RIBAJ and it was a great – and green – success.

Discussing green infrastructure and its role in the cities of the future, we heard from Peter Head CBE, whose insightful presentation opened the debate.

Peter, who is CEO of the Ecological Sequestration Trust, provided a fantastic overview of what makes a liveable community, which can ‘only be created and sustained by the collective effort of all’. Touching on the benefits of green infrastructure, Peter pointed out that our biosphere is the bedrock on which society and the economy can flourish, while expanding on the idea of CHEER, which revolutionises the way we solve environmental issues.

Tom Armour from Arup then opened the debate to the panellists Julia Thrift, Cannon Ivers, and Pat Hayes. Pat, who is the Executive Director of Regeneration and Housing of Ealing Council, said we need to look at green infrastructure holistically, explaining how green space is used in London.

Julia, Projects & Operations Director at the Town & Country Planning Association, then expanded on the theme, highlighting the talent we have in the UK but also emphasising the lack of budget and ambition for green infrastructure projects. Our third panellist, Cannon, Director of landscape architecture at LDA Design, brought up some fascinating work happening in Sheffield, where water attenuation projects are becoming social endeavours and researchers are discovering the biodiversity of even the smallest green spaces.

The conversation then turned to how we justify green infrastructure projects – Julia explained that exciting research is quantifying the benefits. When Tom asked what advice the panel would give to architects, Pat emphasised the importance of demonstrating how green infrastructure can add value to their clients’ developments, while Cannon drew on his experience as a landscape architect to say that both disciplines need to respect each other’s approaches.

Questions were then opened to the audience, who gave some great insight into the debate, including how some green spaces have no maintenance strategy in place. Julia pointed out that we need new and different skills in parks, not just horticultural expertise based on the Victorian-style model – Cannon agreed, saying that parks can be more diverse than just grass and trees.

Thanks to all of our panellists and guests – we hope you all enjoyed the debate.

Find out more about our events here.