West Gorton Community Park is the first of its kind in Greater Manchester, and is setting the standard for similar green spaces to be rolled out across the region and even into Europe.
Informally titled the “sponge park” for its contribution in helping to tackle climate change, the space is brimming with nature–based solutions that blend effortlessly as features in the landscape and overall design. Funded through the European Commission Horizon 2020 Research Programme, Grow Green West Gorton is a demonstration green space which showcases how to design, fund, deliver and manage a green infrastructure project which achieves climatic, social, economic and environmental benefits.
The project began in 2018 with project partners Manchester City Council, The Guinness Partnership Ltd, The University of Manchester and the Manchester Climate Change Agency with BDP commissioned as the landscape architects and Groundwork Greater Manchester as the community engagement lead.
Engaging the Community
When approaching the design of the project, Groundwork Greater Manchester engaged the community in a consultation to ensure they had a say in how the park would look and its priorities; benefit to local people, wildlife and the environment.
Local resident Heather Rangzab felt that Groundwork’s approach has made a lasting impression on the communities perspective towards the park; reiterating that because she was part of the group that helped design it, the space feels like it belongs to her and the others, so litter and anti-social behaviour won’t be tolerated.
BDP, landscape architects on the project, created a design which is made up of three separate, interconnected spaces, complete with clear pedestrian routes to encourage residents from the local neighbourhood to walk or cycle to the park. Nature-based solutions are a key element used throughout the process to reduce flooding and storm water run–off;
The Community Area
Towards the south of the site is a piazza for community events, complete with permeable paving that filters rain water into a sunken garden, thus feeding the plants.
A stunning wildflower meadow helps to improve biodiversity, whilst surrounding ‘bio-swales’ take water from hard and soft landscapes, acting as a sponge and using the water to feed the plants. It’s standout rain garden with a pontoon deck uses any excess water as a feature.
More Than a Green Space
Monitoring tests will be carried out by The University of Manchester to show how successful these nature-based solutions have been in responding to climate change. Researchers have already noticed a significant rise in usage of the green space, which will be used to quantify further data on things like community well-being, physical activity and socialising.
A significant and unique feature in the park is the community growing area, where residents are encouraged to grow their own herbs and vegetables that can be used by others in the neighbourhood. It’s clear that access to these kind of features, along with open lawn space and play areas are showing a positive increase in the range of people spending time in the park.
The park is the final element of the West Gorton regeneration programme, which has seen a transformation of the neighbourhood, with new housing and new community facilities completed over the last 11 years.
Groundwork were commissioned to deliver high quality community engagement and community expertise in the area, involving local people at every stage of the green space’s development – from consultation, to co-design, to implementation and monitoring.
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