Parks and Public Open Spaces Jargon Buster

Our Jargon Buster is a new feature we started in our monthly newsletter in September 2021. We wanted to break down the barriers between the way policy makers, industry experts from other sectors, and green space users talk about parks and public open spaces.

What unites us all is the value we place on our parks and open spaces, having a common language and understanding of the value of parks and open spaces will strengthen our collective capacity to advocate for positive change.

But we don’t want this recourse to be exclusively available to newsletter subscribers, to be truly inclusive we believe this information should be open access. Therefore, every month new terms, definitions, case studies, explanations will be added to this page on our website explaining technical terms, new ideas, and changes in way conversations about parks and open spaces are being had. We have also included a comments section below so our readers can ask questions and make requests.

Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity refers to the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat. The greater the variety of different species of plants and animals in a habitat, the more biodiverse we consider that habitat to be.

The Environment Bill has made it mandatory for housing and developments to achieve at least 10% biodiversity net gain. This mandate means that habitats and wildlife must be left in a measurably better state than before the development.

For example, a housing developer who has been granted permission to build a new neighbourhood within the Cambridgeshire region will, by law, have to ensure that habitats and wildlife are left in a measurably better state than before the development. The developer will first need to measure the level of biodiversity before the development begins. This measure is then converted into Biodiversity Units. To do this, the developer might, for example, use The Biodiversity Metric 3.0, which can also be used the measure the impact of different land management interventions on biodiversity net gain both onsite and off-site. This will, therefore, give the developer an idea of the types of interventions they will need to put in place in order to achieve 10% biodiversity net gain.

Land management interventions could include enhancing existing natural habitats, or creating new ones. In some cases, this may also involve integrating  biodiversity provision into the design of new buildings and open spaces. If it is not possible to achieve biodiversity net gain on site – i.e. within the neighbourhood itself – then the developer can alternatively invest in nature restoration outside the development.

For more information about biodiversity net gain, check out the Natural England Website, or their short introductory video to biodiversity net gain. For more information on biodiversity in general, check out the National Trust or National Geographic websites.

 Ecosystem Services

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessments define Ecosystem Services as ‘the benefits people derive from ecosystem’. Providing provisional goods (also known as Natural Capital) such food, water etc.

And a range of services:

  • Regulating Services – processes that work together to make the ecosystem clean, sustainable and functional. Examples include, pollination, carbon storage and climate regulation.
  • Cultural Services – processes on how humans interact with nature and is described as a non-material benefit that contributes to the development and cultural advancement of people. A clear example is recreation and health and wellbeing services parks provide to local residents.
  • Supporting Services – described as the most important process, providing the underlying natural processes which support provisional goods, regulating and cultural services. Main examples are photosynthesis, water cycle and creation of soil.

Ecosystems Services are provided worldwide, however what does this mean for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough? Well the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks Team have been working closely with consultants Nature Capital Solutions to develop a natural capital assessment for the county. During this assessment Natural Capital has been reviewed and priority areas have been identified as ecosystem services to benefit local communities.

To find out more information on Natural Capital Assessments, the ecosystems services mapped and how these benefit local communities in the county, please visit the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks website.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice means different things to different people, but is broadly defined as:

“The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”

So what does Environmental Justice mean for our parks and green spaces?

Through the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks project we have sought to advocate for the multiple benefits of parks and green spaces for health and wellbeing, nature restoration and community resilience. These benefits should be available for everyone to enjoy, however, as is the case across the country, we are acutely aware that access to the benefits of parks and green spaces is unequally distributed. Our engagement with local communities revealed the perceived importance of inclusive accessible spaces that cater to the needs of the community.

So Environmental Justice for parks and green spaces is about understanding unequal access to parks and green spaces and addressing the barriers of access. In some cases this might be about creating new spaces, but in other cases it is about the quality and long-term stewardship of accessible green spaces.

Birmingham is a leading example of how the principle of Environmental Justice can be used as a tool to highlight the inequalities in accessing green space, which they then used to inform their City of Nature Plan.

“As we engaged with communities across Birmingham, we became very aware that sections of our community currently face barriers in accessing green spaces or making full use of facilities on offer…. We call the ambition to achieve equitable access to green spaces Environmental Justice.”

Green Infrastructure

Natural England defines green infrastructure as:

“a network of multifunctional green and blue spaces… which are capable of delivering a wide range of environmental, economic, health and wellbeing benefits for nature, climate, and local communities”

When we think about green infrastructure, we are thinking about parks and open spaces, woodlands, street trees, allotments, private gardens, green roofs and walls, and sustainable drainage systems. The collection of these features into an integrated space creates multi-functional places that provide numerous benefits to society. Such as, better mental health and wellbeing, increased physical activity, reduction in urban heat, reduction in the impact and risk of flooding, carbon capture and storage, and increased investment.

To read more about Green Infrastructure, check out the Natural England Green Infrastructure website.

Green Social Prescribing

Social prescribing connects people with a range of community-based activities and support. It helps people to improve their health and wellbeing, based on “what matters to me” conversations and a personalised case and support plan developed between the social prescribing link worker and the person they are working with.

– Source, NHS England

For some people, this support will include linking people to nature-based interventions and activities‘ including walking for health schemes and community gardens. In June the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare held a ‘Green Prescribing for Sustainable Healthcare event‘ showcasing case studies of green social prescribing projects such as the ‘Wild at Heart’ community green prescribing project, and ‘The Green Walking Initiative’.

As part of HMT’s Shared Outcomes Fund, Seven green social prescribing ‘test and learn projects have been successfully funded to test the ways in which connecting people with nature can improve mental health.

At Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks we are working collaboratively with project partners to pilot a number of green social prescribing projects, which help connect people to nature to improve their mental and physical health, as part of our wider work to understand how we can maximise the benefits of parks and open spaces in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough for health and wellbeing.

For more information, check out the NHS England’s webpage on green social prescribing, our blog post on the health benefits of parks and open spaces, or the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s website.

Greenspace Stewardship

Greenspace Stewardship is defined by the TCPA as ‘The actions taken by individuals, local community groups, local stakeholders and management organisations, with shared motivation sand values, to protect, care for or responsibly use local parks and greenspaces in pursuit of a range of shared environmental and social outcomes in an economically viable manner.’

Local Nature Recovery Strategies 

Local Nature Recovery Strategies are a new Country wide system of spatial strategies that will establish priorities and map proposals for specific actions to drive nature recovery and provide wider environmental benefits. Local Nature Recovery Strategies are an important part of an ambitious package of measures being introduced by the Environment Bill to reverse nature’s decline.

So what does this means for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough? Local Nature Recovery Strategies are a new but share some of the objectives of to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks Programme including working with local communities on Nature Restoration projects and the Natural Capital Mapping recently undertaken to identify priority areas to restore nature.

Pilots for Local Nature Recovery Strategy have been taking place across the country. Natural England have been working with the following responsible authorities;

  • Cornwall Council,
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority,
  • Buckinghamshire Council,
  • Cumbria County Council
  • Northumberland County Council.

If you are interested in the full lessons learnt report, please visit Natural England website here.To find out more information on Local Nature Recovery visit the following websites.

Nature Based Solutions

The IUCN defines nature-based solutions as:

Actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits. They are underpinned by benefits that flow from healthy ecosystems and target major challenges like climate change, disaster risk reduction, food and water security, health and are critical to economic development.

Nature-based solutions is a recent ‘hot topic’ in the world of parks, open spaces, and the wider environment. In a world where the need to start thinking seriously about how humans can build better relationships with the natural world is becoming more apparent; one of the biggest questions is whether green infrastructure can provide cost-effective solutions to societal challenges, as well as providing environmental, societal and economic benefits.

For instance, an inter-connected sustainable drainage system, integrated into ‘grey’ infrastructure is capable of delivering social, environmental and economic benefits to the local community. The infrastructure provides social benefits by reducing the risk and impact of flooding and provides a service to the local community as an adaptive measure to the risks of climate change. Sustainable drainage systems also provide biodiversity services providing habitats for a variety of plant and wildlife species. Finally, sustainable drainage systems reduce the costs associated with incidence of flooding, and reduce the cost of infrastructure maintenance and water management thus providing an economic service as well.

For more examples of the ways in which nature-based solutions can be applied to parks and public open spaces, check out our blog post ‘what do we mean when we talk about Nature-based Solutions?’ Network Nature have also provided a factsheet providing an overview of some of the current societal challenges across Europe, and examples of how nature-based solutions are being used to tackle them.

Natural Capital

When we talk about Natural Capital in parks and open spaces, we are talking about a shift in how we think about these spaces. From thinking about parks as ‘nice to have’ features with a financial cost, to thinking about parks and open spaces as ‘assets’ which can deliver benefits to society. The benefits that society gains from nature, or the wider ecosystem, are referred to as ecosystem services.

So natural capital describes that assets (i.e. environmental features such as forests, rivers, grasslands, biodiversity, and soil) that can be used to produce value to society (ecosystem services).

For example, natural peatlands are made up of decaying plant material that has built up in waterlogged conditions over thousands of years. In these waterlogged conditions, due to the resulting lack of oxygen, the plant material cannot rot and builds up into a layer of peat. Because the plants cannot rot the carbon captured by plant life is locked up within the peat. In fact, peatlands are the UK’s largest carbon store, storing around 3 billion tonnes of carbon.

The natural capital asset in this example is the UK’s peatlands and the ecosystems services the asset delivers is carbon storage.

To take this example a step further would be to explore whether investment in this natural capital asset could enhance the ecosystems services enjoyed. Natural England estimates that restoration of key types of degraded peatlands could delivery emissions reductions of up to 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 each year. Therefore investment of this natural capital asset could deliver additional ecosystems services in the form of reduce CO2 emissions, reducing our vulnerability to climate change.

For more information on the example use in this post check out peatland restoration in Cumbria, the British Ecological Societies latest report on Nature-based solutions for climate change in the UK, or Natural England’s report on England’s peatlands: carbon storage and greenhouse gases.

Nature Connectedness

Nature connectedness is about much more than just being outside. When we talk about nature connectedness we are talking about people’s experience of being in nature, how it makes them feel. Essentially, we are asking people:

  1. whether they always find beauty in nature
  2. whether they always treat nature with respect
  3. whether being in nature makes them very happy
  4. whether spending time in nature is very important to them
  5. whether they find being in nature amazing
  6. and whether they feel part of nature

Studies have shown that having a stronger connection to nature is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and increases in pro-environmental behaviours.

Trail’s, run by the National Trust in partnership with The University of Derby, have shown how relatively simple and cost effective interventions to improve nature connectedness can be. For example, in Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, the team wanted to offer activities for local residents however, were concerned that mindfulness activities, such as meditation and ‘forest bathing’ would not appeal to a broad enough range of people. They therefore decided to offer monthly outdoor art classes to encourage people to slow down and notice nature. Also, since 2012 the National Trust have been running their 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 which aims to help inspire children to get out and enjoy nature.

“Simple activities, like watching the clouds, the stars or the sunrise, listening to birdsong and smelling flowers. Each builds a richer relationship with nature and each can be enjoyed in a town or a city”

There are a wide variety of activities you can do to feel more connected to nature and one of the simples ways to get started is by taking notice of your natural environment, finding something beautiful and taking a picture of it on your phone. Here at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks Team we frequently share pictures of beautiful things we have found in our parks and green spaces with each other and with friends and family. For example, this picture of a local neighbourhood park in Peterborough was taken by one of the teams family members on a chilly winter walk one December morning.

Our Nature Connectedness jargon buster has been informed by work undertaken by the National Trust and The University of Derby exploring ways to strengthen the relationship between people and nature. For more information, check out The University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group, the National Trust and The University of Derby ‘Nature and Me‘ guide to nature connectedness, or Miles Richardson’s, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness and lead of the Nature Connectedness Research Group, blog on nature connectedness.


When we talk about placemaking, we are talking about an approach to planning, designing and managing places based on the idea that community spaces should function for the people who use them. Therefore, rather than designing and managing community spaces in isolation, a placemaking approach will work with communities to discover their needs and aspirations for publicly accessible open space.

Greenspace Scotland, for example, has ben doing a lot of work with community organisations, local authorities, urban regeneration companies, housing associations, private developers and planning / design firms; working with people to discover their needs and aspirations for their publicly accessible open space to inform planning and development. The process involves observation, interviews, surveys and place evaluation workshops with local communities which are used to create a place vision which focuses on people. For example, one project sought to tackle litter by giving local green spaces a purpose, Greenspace Scotland engaged with local communities who identified litter as an issue and were actively looking for a way to address these issues. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks has also undergone work to understand aspirations of green space provision among new communities.

Sign up to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks monthly newsletter to receive updates of new additions to our parks and open spaces Jargon Buster and much more including project updates, news and updates from our project partners and the wider parks and open spaces industry, interesting articles, links to upcoming events and opportunities to get involved in the Future Parks Accelerator work!

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