The Mersey Forest is working with partners in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands to share approaches and develop best practices on a European project called Green Infrastructure for Tomorrow – Together! (GIF-T) that aims to develop a ‘bottom-up’ approach for sustainable land management. For the Mersey Forest Plan, the public consultation took place over an extended timescale, and involved asking the public how they felt about trees and woodlands in Merseyside, where they would like to see more trees planted, and locations where woodlands could be better managed. The campaign included both traditional marketing methods and innovative interactive mapping too. The information gathered provided a factual basis on which to develop and implement local policy. The work has identified key areas to increase connectivity wooded landscape to help not only reduce habitat fragmentation, but also to provide a range of ecosystem services.
In Edessa, another project is a development of three riverside walkways that ‘reintroduce history, culture, and nature, and connect them to the local urban context’. When establishing green corridors in Edessa, the participation of local people has been productive throughout the planning process and execution of the project: green frame of the proposal was presented to citizens and local authorities public and private sectors, with discussions regarding advantages and disadvantages of each option. In Italy, the Conca Project includes participatory watershed planning with a range of stakeholders from local authorities, technical consultants and community members, collaboratively developing a consensual spatial plan for the conca river valley.
Natura2000 award winning 3watEr project is also a good example for reconciling interests/perceptions. The 3Water project is based in the Vijvercomplex van Midden Limburg, in the north-east of Belgium: a Natura 2000 site that aims to maintain a viable environment for nature, business and tourism. The ‘3E’ approach was key to reconciling different goals and interests. All the partners pledged to respect a balance between Economy, Ecology and Education, under Natura 2000 guidelines. The project focused on preserving local species such as the bittern (a member of the heron family) and the tree frog, through renovating ponds and wetlands, building new reed islands for the bittern and restoring traditional wet and dry heather. The results are impressive. The number of breeding pairs of bitterns has more than doubled, and the population of tree frogs is estimated to be the largest in the Benelux countries.
Another good examples that was presented on HERCULES EU level workshop are the land consolidation schemes which have been used in the Netherlands to develop landscape stewardship. After some tensions in the 70’s, the current success from the process relies on the fact that it is built on local and bottom-up initiatives which work on a participatory basis. Support from the local government comes after that action has been taken by several land managers. It is clear that land consolidation is a powerful tool for problematic regions, however stakeholder involvement is essential from the erly stage and that force of law should be avoided.
Public participation is a widely discussed topic in landscape research programs, and still a challenge to balance the need to establish modes of governance and the resistance to change associated to some projects (Pautard, 2010, VAD communication). But beyond landscape planning, there is an identified need for a « permanent dialogue », not related to the project (PDD2 Roundtable, 2015: Landscape and Sustainable Development, 2015), on the basis of mobilization « promoting a dialogue setting individual expectations, collective (and desired) intentions, and possible developments of the territory » (Y. Lazzeri, 2015 Fig . 4).
This trend is now illustrated in the case of local urban micro-projects such as community gardens, or by the example of Saint Priest pocket gardens. These pocket gardens are participatory projects of beautification on public spaces originally « abandoned » and maintained by volunteer residents who plant flowers, shrubs, etc. Meeting the demand of the inhabitants of natural areas, the city of Saint-Priest has implemented these small public spaces (foot tree, street corners, etc.) upon which residents take ownership to flourish and plant to their liking. « As an urban beautification program, pocket gardens are also an opportunity to create links between the inhabitants and the town hall, and get greater respect for public space by the inhabitants. » In November 2011, there were 14 in operation pocket gardens and 12 project in different areas of the city: Tree foot house fronts, building feet, curbs, and other areas of several meters square. The approach has to involve neighborhood councils, the Association Passe-garden, and conventions and agreements have been signed with the various owners / users / site managers. Ownership of the process by the inhabitants relied on twenty people mobilized over 200 neighborhood councils guests, with still a sustainable operation today. The project benefited to residents-gardeners who were trained by practicionners from Green space service to the neighborhood that got living conditions improvement, to technicians with building relationships with residents, and to elected officials who take advantage of the improving the image of the city. This project is inspired, among others, of the Vancouver « Green Street » initiative, from which the city practitionners took the concept. The objective is the appropriation of this public space by residents, between residents, and one of the keys to success is participation of the city technicians, with the enthusiasm of the elected representatives (DREAL Rhône-Alpes, 2012).