It started with a seemingly sudden refurbishment of all bus stops in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. From April 2019, 316 of Utrecht’s bus stops were fitted with green roofs by an advertisement agency, in response to a tender by the municipality for ideas to promote healthy urban living. The value of these green bus stops is not just good publicity – although the initiative has commanded quite some attention from news outlets from Germany to Australia, Ukraine, and Mexico – they actually do support local biodiversity: for flying insects these patches of green spread out through the city make all the difference, says Harry Boesschoten, programme director Green Metropole at Staatsbosbeheer (the Dutch state forest management agency).

As a next step in the city’s urban greening process, a new policy will increase the effort on urban greening. A city-wide strategy will follow an already popular grant scheme for rooftop greening by homeowners, which covers 50% of the costs (with a maximum of €20,000 per application), as well as the development of an urban eye-catcher in the form of a ‘vertical forest’. This building, Wonderwoods, is set to be completed in 2022 and will include 360 trees and 9,640 shrubs and flowers. The rooftop greening subsidy was so popular that the budget to meet the demand was recently raised from €100,000 to €500,000. The municipality is now exploring whether the current subsidy scheme for private homeowners can be converted for buildings with a societal function, such as schools.

Utrecht’s new green roof policy hopes to accomplish that ‘no roof will be left unused’ it was reported in "The Guardian”. A sort of city-wide green roof obligation, as implied by the Guardian, will however not be legally feasible, says Jeanet Hekhuis of Utrecht municipality. But the plans to be developed will likely set high standards for urban greening, especially in the large scale area developments in Merwedekanaalzone and the Beurskwartier, and in doing so involve numerous stakeholder groups in the greening process.


Hade Dorst is a Researcher at Utrecht University working on the NATURVATION project