The Natural Neighbourhoods programme has demonstrated the potential for urban green spaces to play an important role in addressing the climate and nature emergency, while showing how involving local people can help promote nature connectedness and improve people’s skills and employment prospects.

The programme focused on sites that matter to local communities with high levels of deprivation, such as the Green Patch Community Gardens in Kettering. The Green Patch was improved through the restoration and enlargement of the wildlife pond, installation of green roofing and the regeneration of the garden. The project directly addressed climate change though habitat creation and biodiversity enhancement.

Replacing the pond

The original leaky pond was replaced with two new ponds. Creating two ponds allowed the existing fish to remain in one of the pools while the second was left fish-free to encourage amphibian and reptile species numbers to grow. This area was given the illusion of being one large body of water by installing a bridge between them.

The pond restoration and enlargement has created habitat for aquatic insects such as water boatmen, pond skaters and water snails. The larger amphibian pond becoming home to a number of smooth newts, frogs and vast quantities of frogspawn/tadpoles.

Installing the green roof

The surrounding gardens were also improved through planting wildflower meadow turf and installing a green roofed shed to hold educational literature and pond dipping equipment.

The green roof, which was created with sedum matting, serves as a demonstration model for storm water run-off reduction, and is part of an overall strategy for storm water management on this site that is prone to waterlogging. Participation run off has been reduced by up to 54% by the green roof, alleviating waterlogging elsewhere on the site.

The green roof has increased surface vegetation cover by 33 square metres at the site, increasing the insect population by 8 – 12% per square metre.

As well as the habitat creation and biodiversity enhancement benefits, the site is intended as an educational space to teach about aquatic wildlife. The bridge and deck have been carefully crafted to make pond dipping safe and to be accessible to wheelchair users.

The materials for the shed, bridge and deck were sourced sustainably, using donations and leftover materials from other projects.

Natural Neighbourhoods is a targeted programme which helps young people into employment. The programme creates jobs and develops a programme of environmental traineeships to support the improvement and protection of local parks and the greenspaces that matter to the surrounding communities.

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.