Green city: the results of Lyon’s Parc Zénith Health Impact Assessment

27 February 2018

Known for its world-famous cuisine, its annual Festival of Lights and its brand new football stadium, Lyon is looking to add another string to its bow by becoming France’s leading green city. As such, its 3rd arrondissement is currently playing host to a truly ambitious project: transforming an abandoned industrial site into one of the country’s biggest green spaces, to be unveiled this spring. The future Parc Zénith’s development is being carried out alongside an ongoing Health Impact Assessment designed to ensure the project is a success. Head of Urban Landscaping Magali Rogel tells us more.

So, what is a Health Impact Assessment (HIA)?

A Health Impact Assessment is a World Health Organization (WHO) approved approach to policy development and urban planning, aiming to ensure that health remains a priority when discussing ways to develop our cities. A HIA helps planners and urban service providers to make the best decisions with health and safety in mind, providing scientific and contextual information on issues that may affect public health. In Lyon, the Regional Health Observatory, Urban Ecology Directorate and Green Spaces Directorate joined together to respond to a government-launched initiative seeking proposals on how to improve public spaces.

Why choose a HIA for Lyon’s Parc Zénith?

We ultimately selected this approach as a result of its particular emphasis on studying the site’s environmental profile, as well as that of the surrounding area. This meant that we could integrate the study and its results into the ongoing development of the park, allowing us to clearly see what was and wasn’t working as we went along. Certain elements of this HIA, including its community focus, have allowed us to create and move forward with the project as part of a collaborative venture with the general public. For example, we’ve been able to take into account a wide range of opinions and concerns, that we may not necessarily have had access to if we’d proceeded via a more traditional development format. Thanks to this Health Impact Assessment, we’ve been able to fully grasp what the public wants and expects from this park.

What were the HIA’s objectives?

Questions were raised about what the park would be used for, as well as how the plants and trees would positively impact the community as they grew. The HIA also included a ‘sunlight study’ that allowed us to accurately estimate the perceived temperature as park users would experience it, depending on its layout and design. This study led us to make several adjustments, such as the positioning of trees and park buildings, to make sure that community needs were met.

What were the major issues when it came to the park’s development?

Envisagé comme le nouveau poumon vert du quartier, ce parc va offrir plus de 8 000 m2 d’espace pour les riverains, mais également pour de nombreux étudiants. L’ensemble du site s’est progressivement transformé en un vaste campus. La problématique majeure était de réussir à faire cohabiter différents publics : l’étude a révélé les craintes des riverains vis-à-vis des groupes de jeunes, des fumeurs avec les mégots sur le sol, etc. Grâce à l’Évaluation d’impact sur la santé, nous avons pu évaluer de façon précise et complète les modalités de cette future cohabitation : qui va venir ? À quel moment ? Pour quoi faire ? Comment accueillir ces publics et faire en sorte que les gens puissent s’y retrouver sans créer de dysfonctionnement ? Les questions soulevées dans l’EIS au sujet des mégots et des déchets en général nous ont permis de proposer des dispositifs innovants de collecte sélective et « citoyenne » des déchets, de mettre au point une signalétique adaptée aux fumeurs… Concrètement, il n’y aura pas de corbeille à l’intérieur du parc, mais des bacs de tri à chaque entrée.

What were the major issues when it came to the park’s development?

Spanning over 8,000 m2, the park was designed to breathe new life into the community, in every sense! We did receive a lot of feedback from local residents, including concerns about how the new park would be used, as there is a large student community in the area. Participants were particularly worried about large gatherings of youths and potential damage to the site, such as cigarette butts, bottles, etc. The HIA helped us envisage how best to bring these different areas of the community together – who would use the park? When and what for? Finally, how could we ensure the park would be something everyone could enjoy, without creating a ‘no-go zone’ for certain groups of residents? As a result of this dialogue, we decided to opt for several innovative solutions to help reduce concerns linked to littering and vandalism: recycling bins at entry and exit pointssigns reminding smokers that they’re in a shared space, and a no-bin zone inside the park.

How was the Health Impact Assessment carried out?

When the decision was made to opt for a HIA, the park’s design was already more or less in place. However, the HIA was conducted alongside subsequent development phases, providing essential research (questionnaires, on-site sensors) that helped researchers to justify their decisions regarding the park’s final layout.

What will the Lyon’s Parc Zénith look like?

  The park will open in spring 2018, and will feature a series of artificial lakes surrounded by plants and bushes, as well as two outdoor games areas, a library, a reading garden, a ‘flower theatre’, and much more! Visitors will also be able to view ‘insect hotels’, a bird nesting space, and animal habitats to encourage learning about local biodiversity.

Can HIAs be used alongside other projects?

Yes! Several local and regional entities have already expressed an interest in conducting HIAs in other contexts, including urban planning, public transport and housing, as well as other, larger projects (including airport construction and even the Olympic Games). In France, Switzerland and Quebec, HIAs usually feature alongside urban development and regional transport projects, but with green city living rapidly becoming a priority for local governments across the world, this innovative approach to public health problem-solving is sure to become even more popular.  

Discover also: How to combine landscape planning and public health

The HIA carried out during Parc Zénith’s development illustrates Lyon’s commitment to becoming a green city – now more important than ever in the context of an ever-more environmentally engaged population! .

Our thanks to Magali Rogel.

Photo credit: DR - Ville de Lyon

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