With approximately 75% of Europe’s population now living in urban areas, urban concentrations, if not appropriately managed, result in a number of issues, such as the increasing dependence on private vehicles to land take-up, changing climates and ineffective water management.
In Malta, the National Environment Policy (NEP) and the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) identify the need to move towards sustainable development. In fact, the SPED comments on the importance of open spaces when increasing densities. Additionally, urban open spaces have the potential to tackle urban challenges and contribute to sustainable development if they function as green infrastructure.
The poor quality of open spaces in Malta is suggestive of a "gap" in their planning and design. In fact, the latest research by PhD researcher from the University of Malta’s Faculty for the Built Environment, Perit Sarah Scheiber, who is also an assistant lecturer at the Department of Architecture & Urban Design, addresses this gap. The aim is to investigate the planning and the design of urban open spaces in Malta and use the outcomes to develop proposals for improving their contribution to sustainable development.
Her paper titled "A Mixed Method Approach to develop proposals for Malta’s Urban Open Spaces to act as Green Infrastructure" outlines the methodology adopted using Malta’s urban conurbation as a case-study. Through a number of methods, she proves how urban open spaces in Malta are currently not acting as green infrastructure, and goes on to suggest that adopting an urban green infrastructure planning approach could facilitate the potential for urban open spaces to indeed act as green infrastructure. As urban challenges increase, the need to work towards sustainable development makes this a priority.
“Principles such as improved connectivity between open spaces, the provision of paths of appropriate widths, open spaces which allow for informal recreation and physical activity, or maximising the use of vegetation to ensure climatic comfort, increase biodiversity and improve sustainable water management are but a few of the advantages we could all be benefiting from if more open spaces were to act as green infrastructure”, said Perit Scheiber.
Perit Scheiber's work can be accessed online.