Throughout 2021 and 2022 we engaged the local community, residents, visitors and businesses, in conversation about how we could ‘green’ Swinton Square Shopping Centre, an urban mall at the heart of the local community.

We wanted to hear their thoughts on how it could be made a better place to visit, live and do business, as well as exploring how the space could be made more resilient to climate change and help becoming an important stepping stone for nature in the city.

Operating initially as a pilot scheme as part of the Ignition project, the project quickly grew beyond this thanks to the ongoing support of the centre’s managing agent, Avison Young. Together, partners sought to showcase how incorporating nature-based solutions into public realm design can help restore urban ecosystems, and tackle socio-environmental challenges such as flooding, air quality and biodiversity at the same time as improving how people feel about the space.

Work began in the summer of 2021, when our community engagement leads began a series of engagement activities to understand how the space was currently used and what would make it better in the future. They delivered fun and interactive events which raised awareness about climate change and how urban greening and nature-based-solutions could help manage the effects. By connecting people with nature, businesses, schools and residents quickly developed ideas on what could be done to tackle climate change here at Swinton Square.

These ideas were fed into a series of participatory design workshops which harnessed the enthusiasm of the community, and drew on our landscape architects’ expertise. The team focused on bringing the communities ideas to life, whilst managing the age-old challenge of keeping maintenance costs low.

In spring 2022, our in-house landscaping team started construction on the site, installing several nature-based solutions which incorporated hidden systems which, in periods of heavy rain, absorb excess water and reduce flooding in the square and on neighbouring streets.

The result; a greener, more resilient space with living walls, green roofs, and a rain garden. A space where local people want to spend more time, and visit more often.

Managing agent, Avison Young were fundamental to sites greening, making a long-term commitment to both the centre and the local community. Our Landscape Architects were able to source solutions which kept maintenance costs within their budget, sourcing features such as a solar powered, self-watering living wall and planting long season, low maintenance bulbs.

These new features will be monitored to explore the benefits and positive impact they have for both the environment, the local economy and people’s connection with nature and their community.

We hope the evidence collected will inspire land owners across Greater Manchester and beyond to invest in more nature-based solutions in order to enhance life for people and the planet.