Dr Helen Hoyle

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  • Qualifications:BA (hons), MA, PhD
  • Position:Senior Lecturer in Healthy Built environments
  • Department:FET - Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Telephone:+4411732 86374
  • Email:Helen.Hoyle@uwe.ac.uk

About me

My research focuses on public response to designed urban planting and green infrastructure, at scales varying from direct human experience of planting to the wider landscape scale. My interests lie at the interface between human aesthetic response, well-being and biodiversity in the context of a changing climate. I use integrative inter-disciplinary approaches drawn from environmental psychology, urban ecology, sociology and cultural geography. As a landscape architect I believe strongly in the importance of design for the 'ordinary Joe or Joanne' rather than for design elites, and aim to reconcile human aesthetic preferences, well-being and ecological objectives.

My research has had a strongly applied emphasis, focusing on the following key projects:

The use of cutting and irrigation to delay the flowering of native wildflower meadows
MA research project (2010-11) working with James Hitchmough on the management recommendations for the London 2012 perennial meadows. The aim was to use cutting and irrigation techniques to manipulate the flowering of perennial meadows, delaying this by approximately six weeks to coincide with the opening on the London 2012 Olympic Park. In 2011, we wrote the 'Recommendations to the ODA on Perennial Meadows Cutting and Irrigation Regimes for the London 2012 Olympic Park.' The dissertation was awarded 'highly commended' in the Landscape Institute annual awards.

Public perception of designed urban planting in a warming climate
Doctoral research with James Hitchmough and Anna Jorgensen focused on human aesthetic response, well-being and perceptions of biodiversity in relation to designed urban planting of varying structure and species character, (2011-15). Funded by a University of Sheffield Social Sciences Faculty Scholarship, this involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. Initial questionnaire participants conducted a 'walk-through' an area of planting, experiencing it in an immersive manner. The thesis was submitted in 2015.

The Urban BESS meadows experiment
The experiment was designed to test the effect of deliberately manipulating the biodiversity levels of specific urban greenspaces previously managed as amenity mown grass. My main role (December 2012-present) has been to work in the key bridging role between the academic team and local authority partners in Luton and Bedford, collaborating closely with the latter to establish the meadows experiment and manage it through diverse challenges to a successful conclusion. Urban BESS is part of a bigger seven-year national research programme, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability, (BESS), funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Luton 'minigolf meadows' project
An additional collaboration developing from the Urban BESS project, this was supported by the seed company Pictorial Meadows. The project focused on public and pollinator response to annual meadows of varying colour and species diversity. A former mini-golf site in Wardown Park, Luton was transformed into an area of vibrant urban meadows. As well as generating research findings, this created a locally attractive site, teeming with butterflies and bees over summer 2015. The project was awarded, 'Highly Commended' in the Community Business of the Year category of the annual Luton and Bedfordshire Community Awards, (October 2015).

Area of expertise

Current research interests focus on developing culturally acceptable climate-adapted urban planting and understanding land manager perspectives on nature-based solutions to urban green infrastructure. My research continues to draw on environmental psychology methods and has used mixed methods approaches combining questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. Work on the BESS project has involved developing fieldwork protocols, greenspace management and maintenance guidance for local authorities, including a Policy and Practice note on introducing urban meadows as part of the Living With Environmental Change series. I have also written a film brief, designed on-site signage and facilitated several public engagement events in relation to the meadows experiment.


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