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Conference paper, 2006

Urban Forests as compensation measures for infrastructure development

Skärbäck, Erik


Sustainable development requires, among other things, that development projects not result in the demolishment of natural resources for recreation. There has been a rapid increase in knowledge regarding the importance of the external environment to our health. People reduce their stress significantly when exposed to health-promoting nature and landscape values. Eight experienced qualities or characteristics have been developed for green areas. These characteristics are of great importance for people’s preferences and well-being. Three of the characteristics have been shown to be of particular importance for restoring people’s mental capacity: Serene, Space and Wild. All three may be assumed to be correlated with the absence of noise. A high level of traffic noise increases stress. My paper discusses the application of the eight characteristics, with special regard to noise, in development projects. Two infrastructure projects have been studied, one for the extension of Sturup Airport, in Malmö, and the other for the extension of a railroad from two to four tracks in the town of Åkarp. Through early estimation of these values before and after the development, it is possible to create and integrate into the planning process discussions of measures to avoid, minimize and compensate for negative impacts, measures that can be negotiated as conditions for authorization of the project. The two projects are situated in the expansive Öresund sound region, which shows a steady increase in population. The railroad is situated precisely in the middle of the communication funnel of southwestern Sweden. The railroad developer has defined three alternative technical solutions: Surface terrace, 1.5- to 5.5-metre below-the-surface terrace, and a tunnel. In our study of the eight characteristics, the parks of Åkarp have been evaluated with respect to the differences between the “covered” situation (tunnel) and the “open” alternatives (“surface terrace” and “below-the-surface terrace”). An open solution prohibits many characteristics in most of the parks in Åkarp. With a tunnel, a complete variety of all eight characteristics can be promoted in central urban green areas. The airport is situated in an area rich in recreational values. The airport expansion will inevitably mean additional noise impacting new areas and increasing the noise level in already noise-affected areas. In this study, we have taken a positive stand on the silent areas, mostly agriculture land, where compensation measures could be taken, thus balancing the loss of silent recreation areas. Silent areas that not will be affected are possible candidates for compensation measures. In this way, new recreational areas, preferably designed as urban forests, are critical parts of the negotiations for the airport extension. The conclusion is that urban forest investments for health functions can be an important part of strategic decisions in all kinds of spatial planning. As preconditions for a permit, the financing of the urban forests and green areas can be part of the total development investigation. This is an issue of global interest, as many countries are in a process of rapid urbanization, and urban greening and urban forestry have an important role to play in the process of promoting quality of life and improving environmental quality


Health; recreation; development; infrastructure; compensation; urban forests; permit process; landscape

Published in


Urban Forestry for Human Health and Wellbeing