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Bringing nature into Cornish towns: Making Space for Nature

Research overview:

Green infrastructure in urban areas such as green spaces and road verges can bring benefits such as reduced heat in summer, reduced flooding, reduced air pollution and benefits wildlife as well as people’s mental and physical health.

Cornwall Council and researchers at the ESI have been working closely on the Green Infrastructure for Growth project and now the Making Space for Nature project (Green Infrastructure for Growth 2), both part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with match funding from Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter.

The projects aim to bring more wildlife to the ‘green deserts’ of small urban public open spaces at the same time as improving them for local communities. The University of Exeter’s role is to monitor the impacts of changes on biodiversity and people.

Key objectives:

Working in urban public open spaces including amenity areas, sports fields, closed churchyards and cemeteries, and road verges, the project goals are to –

  • Increase biodiversity and wildlife value
  • Enhance water quality and a more flood resilient landscape 
  • Enhance ecosystem services provided by sites including climate mitigation such as carbon storage, sustainable drainage via planting and soil improvement, and air pollution mitigation.
  • Improve public access and promote increased community enjoyment of nature
  • Deliver community engagement with health and wellbeing benefits
  • Embed environmental sustainability and equality and diversity principles into all project processes.
  • Provide value for money during project delivery and long-term site aftercare.


So far 40 hectares of urban green space have been improved for both biodiversity and people – urban wildflower patches and pollinator friendly shrubs have been added to provide colour and interest for people, as well as increasing the resources available for bees and other pollinators. Existing habitats such as hedges and scattered trees have been improved to increase the size and connectivity of wooded habitats.

People have been catered for by adding benches, paths and natural features for people and especially children to engage with. Local communities have been involved from the start, in understanding the planned interventions and then invited to participate in spruce up days and bulb planting.

In addition the University of Exeter received funding to run the Growing communities through nature project (link) to run alongside Making Space for Nature and understand how we could deepen community engagement with the objectives of Making Space for Nature.

Working with the University has added a scientific robustness to the work we’ve undertaken across the seven Cornish towns. It’s been really useful to understand the impact of biodiversity enhancements on both people and wildlife and have the rigour of the University’s ecological expertise to guide us along the way.

Karen Hall, Project Officer, Cornwall Council.

Guidance on different environmentally friendly interventions for urban spaces including wildflower meadow creation and starting a community orchard are available here:

Knapp, J. L., Phillips, B. B., Clements, J., Shaw, R. F., Osborne, J. L. (2021). Socio‚Äźpsychological factors, beyond knowledge, predict people's engagement in pollinator conservation. People and Nature, 3, 204–220.

Making Space for Nature was crowned a winner in the Landscape Institute Awards 2022 in the ‘Excellence in Biodiversity, Conservation and Enhancement’ category. (December 2022)

Take part in our photo competition, launching Friday 14th May 2021!

Visit Glasney College, Penryn and download the free QR Code trail to find out more about the site.

Keep up to date with project activities in your local area via the project website and consultation hub.

Sign up to Cornwall Council's Making Space for Nature eNewsletter with top tips, events and activities, either by emailing or Subscribe Here or go to Making Space for Nature | Let's Talk Cornwall and hit the ‘Stay Informed’ button to join our subscribers. 

Prestigious Award for Making Space for Nature project (July 2021)

Park in Cornwall Falmouth Beacon Park nature scheme (August 2021)

Beacon Park Making Space for Nature event celebration (August 2021)

The Making Space for Nature team were finalists at the CIEEM Awards 2022 (Charted Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) and were awarded a Highly Commended certificate in the “Best Practice Large Scale Nature Conservation” category.  Dr Rosalind Shaw represented the project at the Awards ceremony on 22 June 2022, and on the following day the team gave a guided VIP tour of Making Space for Nature sites in Penryn and Falmouth (June 2022)

Project Team

Professor Juliet Osborne (University of Exeter)

Dr Rosalind Shaw (University of Exeter)

Professor Kevin Gaston (University of Exeter)

Dr Ben Wheeler (University of Exeter)

Dr Ilya Maclean (University of Exeter)

Project Sponsors

GI4G is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Project Website