It’s estimated that about 6,500 schools across the UK are in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution, many of which are based in Greater Manchester.

The Protecting Playgrounds project will test the use of hedges with different species mix, density, height and leaf shape in order to find the most effective Nature Based Solution which will act as a green screen barrier around school playgrounds and reduce the most harmful airborne pollutants.

The following schools in Manchester have been selected to take part in the project due to the high levels of pollutants recorded in their playgrounds, all of which exceed acceptable EU levels of pollution, most likely due to their proximity to major roads and nothing but a mesh fence acting as a barrier.

  • Abbott Primary
  • Manchester Communication Primary Academy
  • Medlock Primary
  • St Ambrose Primary
  • St Philips Primary

This project has the potential to deliver some of the most groundbreaking and important evidence delivered to date in recognising the importance and value that green infrastructure can play in terms of reducing airborne pollution. It could, quite literally, be a life saver for the children of Manchester and of this country.

Professor Barbara Maher, Lancaster University

Using Nature Based Solutions to create effective Green Screens

It may be assumed that any form of Nature Based Solutions would have a positive effect in reducing harmful air pollutants however research has shown that this isn’t always the case; trees can often worsen pedestrian-level pollution by reducing the airflow and dispersion of vehicle pollutants and pre-grown ivy screens with waxy surfaces are known to trap relatively little particulate pollution.

This project aims to identify the optimum Green Screen make up in terms of species, height and leaf type.

Our landscape architects will work with Professor Barbara Maher and other leading experts from Lancaster University to install a different green screen at each of the five school grounds and use pollution monitoring equipment to measure the change in airborne pollution before and after the green screen installation.

It is predicted, based on initial lab testing of the green screens, that all school playgrounds will see a reduction in airborne pollution however Professor Barbara Maher will be publishing the final results of study before the end of 2019 which will help inform future school grounds planning.

Groundwork Greater Manchester will act as the lead partner on the Protecting Playgrounds project, installing green infrastructure which will increase biodiversity and increase resilience to climate change.

Engaging Young People with Climate Change

Groundwork specialises in community engagement with young people, therefore it was essential that the Protecting Playgrounds project engaged the school pupils with their new green screens.

Our youth workers will work in the five Manchester schools supporting pupils to become citizen scientists; training pupils to take air pollution samples and inputting the data so it can be used as part of the Lancaster University research.

Pupils will learn about the effects of airborne pollution and the need to create clean air routes to schools and will be encourage to create their own public awareness campaign.

Project partners:

Partner logos - MCC TfGM and Lancaster University

If you work for a school that would like to install a green screen to help protect your playground please register your interest by emailing us on

We’ll be in touch as soon as we have the results of the research project to discuss installation of the most effect green screen alongside our citizen science engagement activities.