The problem

People living in cities need access to green space and trees for their mental and physical health and nature needs space to thrive.  But green space in and around cities is fragmented and is often not managed to fulfil its potential for either ecological or human health. It’s hard for local people to make the case for change when they can’t easily see or feel how it could be different.  

The challenge

Would giving an identity to priority areas for land use change in the environs of a city like Bristol have the potential to capture the imagination of campaigners, local residents, decision-makers and landowners to drive a movement for change?

What if …

…we could identify a number of Hope Spots based on data that could be flexed to reflect different criteria for natural regeneration or social amenity?

…we created a campaign tool that brought to life the possibility for a safe, healthy and just future on these sites? And we used this vision to inspire people to work together in the Hope Spots to grow food for all and promote healthy woodlands where nature can thrive?

What did we test?

The practical viability of the concept for land use change. With Geofutures we developed a prototype map of candidate Hope Spots  in the Bristol and Bath greenbelt. We tested a prototype slide pack, setting out the vision and held a stakeholder meeting to explore the concept. The University of Lancaster has adopted the model for identifying food-growing Hope Spots in Lancaster.

What we learned

Hope spots and ‘wildly different’ are concepts that resonate with people, but they are more interested in urban sites' potential and land for nature-friendly food growing is a priority in smaller cities.

There is a mapping gap between big strategic maps and small scale local plans which can be hard to engage with. Detailed technical data is available but it’s important to fill the public engagement gap with inspiring visuals. Too much data including land ownership and soils is still unavailable to campaigners.


What next

Read more about how they used the approach in Lancaster.

Develop an open-source methodology to enable other areas to adopt the approach. Explore different creative strategies for capturing people's imagination about the hope spots and their potential.

If you would like to discuss how this work could be applied in a different context (perhaps weighting criteria differently) or with an emphasis on particular types of land use, like food growing, get in touch.