Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Greater Manchester Green Summit Listening Event: Place

The format of the listening event was designed to maximise the number of voices that could be listened to, and to promote ‘blue-sky thinking’ that generated ideas to transform Greater Manchester into a European flagship for green and blue infrastructure.

The first half of the event was designed to inspire attendees, by featuring four short ‘soapbox’ pitches. Established experts from across the built environment professions, proposed a novel idea for greening the GM city region, which was then followed by an opportunity for attendees to discuss the opportunities, barriers and solutions to the proposed ideas.

First up, Nick Rogers, Head of Urban Design for Taylor Wimpey pitched that all new developments in GM should have to incorporate 50% of the development site to green and blue infrastructure.

This is undoubtedly a radical proposal and one that raised much discussion about the feasibility, but also a lot of support that recognised the growing need for policies to provide measurable targets and requirements for new developments to deliver green and blue infrastructure deliverables, as well as social and economic objectives.

In particular, Nick linked this idea to the need for people to connect to green spaces in the city – for physical and mental health but also to enhance overall human wellbeing.

Next up, Marcel Ridyard, Sports and Leisure Architect at AFL Architects suggested that Greater Manchester needs to find a variety of ways to incentivise more green roofs to be implemented – on both new and existing buildings.

He proposed that part of this process would be about encouraging a change in planning policy so that certain types of new development have to include a biodiverse roof as part of any planning conditions.

However, he also highlighted that to achieve this vision, the benefits of green roofs needed to be more clearly linked to the business case supporting their implementation. Marcel’s vision underpinning this proposal was that the aerial view of Greater Manchester should, and could be a ‘sea of green’.

Third on the line-up was Angie Jukes, Technical Policy & Planning Officer at Stockport Council. Angie presented a passionate plea for the need for new developments to enhance biodiversity within the city.

She proposed a clear route to achieve this – to ensure that all planning applications need to submit landscaping plans prior to planning permission being given. These plans would need to provide detail on planting, with a focus on native species and biodiversity enhancement – and that the quality of these plans should be given material consideration in planning decisions.

Finally, Euan Hall, Chief Executive of The Land Trust proposed that brownfield should be considered the new greenfield. He proposed this would be achieved by realising a more nuanced approach to the management of land – Euan proposed that a considered land strategy should be developed for Greater Manchester.

This strategy would assess the range of values and benefits that all land could deliver and move away from the notion that the most important areas for green spaces are the existing greenfield sites.

In particular Euan emphasised the economic and social benefits that greening brownfield sites can have, as well as the copious environmental advantages.

Attendees at the event provided a lot of interesting feedback about the four ideas, including critique and the potential for realising and enhancing, the four  proposals.

Overwhelmingly though, attendees fed back that something very different from the status quo will be needed to green the city region – more of the same will not suffice.

This message fed neatly into the second half of the event – which was built around allowing each table of attendees to generate and present their own soapbox pitch to green Greater Manchester.

The purpose of this exercise was to ensure that everyone in the room had a voice, and that all the possible ideas for implementing more green infrastructure in the city region could be aired. This generated eight different ideas – some of which shared common themes but perhaps surprisingly - all of them were different from each other.

One theme that was repeated across two tables was the potential to use the corridors within Greater Manchester to deliver more green infrastructure. One of these ideas focussed particularly on the transport corridors and the potential to green the tram network and to use more of the rail and road network for different types of greenspaces.

Some of the ideas focused on specific environmental challenges, including the need to improve air quality around schools by identifying schools that can deliver green infrastructure solutions that buffer children from excess air pollution – particularly from  roads.

Two of the tables featured different ideas centred on capturing the public’s imagination and passion for greenspaces –and that this was the only real way that the city region would be transformed.

One of these ideas centred on education and involvements through a Green Citizen scheme, whereas the other proposed the designation of a people’s ‘pollinator park’ in each town centre in the city region.

One idea centred on the notion of urban rewilding and that using the forgotten and leftover spaces in Greater Manchester for a range of different uses – from food-growing to recreation areas - could deliver a much greener city-region.

Lastly, one idea centred on financing and incentivising green infrastructure through the development of a ‘green bank’ – which required credits to be made by developers when unsustainable developments were implemented, and debits to be made to finance a wide range of greening projects.

The final part of the event allowed everyone to vote for their favourite ideas – by ranking the different proposals that had been made and to leave comments if they wanted to. This generated a lot of discussion (and frenetic activity around the room).

Undoubtedly however, the most number of favourite choices were given to the concept of a ‘Green Bank’. This, along with many of the other ideas – and hopefully the sheer enthusiasm that was generated during the event – will be taken forward for the Mayor’s Green Summit later on in March.

The event was facilitated and delivered by Philippa Reece, Environment Manager at Southway Housing and Dr Anna Gilchrist, a Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Many thanks to AFL Architects who sponsored the event and the support provided from Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Quantum Strategy and Technology.

Interested parties who wish to contribute their thoughts to making Greater Manchester a leading green city-region can complete this survey.

You can also find out more about the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Green Summit, which will take place on 21 March 2018, here.

Visit the main Platform site