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Grow Green Map

Nature in Cities – the First Emergency Service?


Maybe now, more so than ever, is the time to recognise that investing in our greenspaces is not a luxury. It is a vital part of a city’s life support system. A network that begins in our gardens and in the plant pots on our windowsills, and stretches through tree-lined streets and school grounds through parks, allotments, playing fields and along sinuous river valleys.


The ‘golden thread’ that links us all – access to nature and greenspaces. And people are noticing it:


“People need to get out. Parks and open spaces are absolutely crucial for our country and our society.”

(Boris Johnson, March 2020)


“Closing the UK's parks and public spaces really could be a tipping point. You can take our pubs and our shopping centres. You can wall us up behind the front door with Netflix and newsagent wine. But don’t take away our glimpse of the sky, that prescribed 30 minutes of brain-soothing, body-stretching exercise”.

(Barney Ronay, The Guardian. April 2020)


"A successful global biodiversity framework will not be successful without cities on board - they must be very engaged with its delivery."

(Prof. Sir Ian Boyd, University of St Andrews, May 2020)


“A greener city which supports a more diverse abundance of wildlife is one of the important benefits we will gain by working towards our ambition to make Manchester a zero-carbon city by 2038 at the latest.”

(Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for the Environment, January 2020)


In Manchester, collaboration between projects such as IGNITION and Grow Green, amongst others, will reinforce the above messages, providing practical, quantifiable examples of what investment in green infrastructure can bring. Basically: health, happiness and prosperity in a post-COVID world.


People are embracing nature. In April, more people took part in this year’s City Nature Challenge in Greater Manchester than anywhere in the North West – despite the lockdown. Manchester was in the top 50 cities globally for people noting their observations during City Nature Challenge.


We want to know more. Through Manchester’s My Wild City project we want to know what role nature has played in their lives during lockdown. We are asking a direct question: Has nature helped? We suggest the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’.


We will back this up with an evidence-based approach, with projects running at different spatial scales:


In people’s own neighbourhoods, Grow Green’s new West Gorton Community Park, which will be completed in the summer of 2020, and will be a replicable demonstrator of high-quality nature-based solutions to combat climate change in a residential housing area and, perhaps more importantly in these times, a welcoming and stimulating place for local people to relax. Using the brand new neighbourhoods which will be created in Manchester’s Northern Gateway development as a case study, The City Finance Lab Technical Assistance Programme will look to develop replicable models for a city to assess how to plan for the long-term maintenance of the high-quality new greenspaces to which the development aspires.


At a city and city-region scale, the IGNITION project is investigating appropriate and sustainable funding models to increase the region’s green cover by 10%. It will provide us with research-based evidence to further make the case for ‘green’ within both local government structures and beyond to developers and investors.


Alongside Manchester’s new biodiversity strategy and the My Wild City campaign being led by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, GrowGreen will build on the Nature of Manchester study, looking at the quality and the function of the city’s landscape. The approach taken here will be combined with work from partners Tecnalia in Bilbao, to develop an ‘opportunity map’ to influence the future of Manchester’s green spaces.


GrowGreen is also facilitating the development of three brand new River Valley Action Plans which will focus on the importance of interconnected networks of greenspaces along three of the city’s main rivers.


All the above work has not happened coincidentally or by chance. There has been a collective will to make things happen – locally, regionally and internationally. A strong interdisciplinary cohort of partners within Greater Manchester have come together to help reinforce the message – it is no longer a compelling case that is needed – that Nature is the first Emergency Service, and we must respect and protect it.