October 30, 2015

The Height Weavers Community Green Space: Our winning scheme for the Design for Life Competition

In September I worked on our Poppyhead consultancy submission for the Design For Life competition held between GroundWork London, the National Housing Federation and the Landscape Institute.  As a chartered landscape architect, I am a member of the Landscape Institute and this competition was an ideal opportunity to consider the creation of more sustainable housing environments by responding to climate issues. The competition invited ideas about how green infrastructure (GI) could be retrofitted in a neighborhood to make it more resilient to climate change. Design ideas were all linked to a real space and tackled climate challenges such as flooding, overheating and drought to ‘future-proof’ existing green space. You can read more about the approaches that can help us manage water and heat more effectively in my previous blog here: Entrants were to include an A1 presentation board that visually described the climate challenges and opportunities associated with their chosen site as well as submitting information related to maintenance, the involvement of local people in the project and how the design incorporated awareness-raising activities.


The location

Our proposed site within Irlam O’The Height is an area of Pendleton in Greater Manchester. The area became prosperous in the 19th Century due to the industrial revolution and became a well-established community of handloom weavers. The proposed site for climate change adaption lies immediately adjacent to the Aldi supermarket building in a prominent accessible location.  The area is characterized by tightly packed residential streets, many terraced houses with gated alleyways, minimal functional green space. The gated alleys vary in quality although none are trying to specifically manage water or heat associated with climate change and impervious cobble surfaces are the norm.  Several streets retain the very first street patterns and the original cottages of the weavers. These are in a conservation area.  Bolton road with independent fast food and cafes, pubs and other small stores runs alongside the boundary of the area, together with derelict concreted sites and car parks. The proposed site reflects this derelict and sometimes baron urban landscape, interjected with unmanaged planting.

A1 Design for Life map The site and its issues and opportunities

The specific site, as shown on the map above, is a set of adjacent and disconnected spaces that lack meaningful uses, management or connection and there is a general feeling of dereliction and avoidance by pedestrians, despite the great potential of these areas as usable space. Not surprisingly these areas suffer from various climate challenges including flooding brought about through impermeable concrete and macadam surfaces and overheating brought about through concrete fencing and brick walls as well as other surfaces radiating heat. In addition, there is a lack of biodiversity with certain species dominating and problems with flytipping. These issues are a reflection of the issues within the wider area and therefore to address these in this centrally located communal area provides an important opportunity to provide a template and guidance for use in other local spaces.

A1 Design for LifeFinalA1 Design for LifeFinalforprintingPoppyheadConsultancy3 copy

The design

The proposal aims to reconnect the existing spaces by weaving them and their functions together, reusing existing elements as much as possible and using recycled and locally sourced materials as well as regenerating existing planting through effective management. The focus of this work is to create a sustainable and multifunctional green space that can be enjoyed by the community as well as effectively responding to climate change isssues at the same time as recognizing the limitations of budgets and resources. These spaces include a small woodland which is to be regenerated and woodland crafts incorporated both to improve the management of the area and for education of local people; the introduction of 3 rain gardens that weave through the space as well as helping with water management and biodiversity; the introduction of a pictorial meadow to enhance biodiversity and wildlife and dramatically improve the aesthetics of the area, the introduction of a bioretention garden to manage water from the vast supermarket carpark which is currently run straight into the main drains and a community garden, that will serve as a food growing resource for the community as well as a relaxing, sitting space, incorporating a green wall and bug hotel, collecting water for irrigation and growing perennial vegetables and fruit. Bin stores and all lower level roofs will have a green roof installed.A range of maintenance operations will be needed but these are not greatly additional to what should be carried out in the area now. Furthermore with a clear management plan in place and local involvement, we should be able to take better care of the place. Signage and community involvement in the development of the spaces and crafts associated with them will act as an educational resource for local schools and residents.


The Results are in……..


Our A1 submission board

Our A1 submission board


Our proposal was selected as one of the 5 shortlisted projects and was subsequently awarded joint second prize. You can read all about the competition and winning entrants here: and here:

Steve Cole, Design for Life judge and policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said of our entry: ‘This project takes a thorough place specific big picture approach which renders complex issues presented by the housing estates in a simple and effective manner. We have no doubt it would become a place that would be well loved. It is all about making spaces through sensitive and considerate integration, balancing place making and environmental sensitivity; it puts people at the heart of the vision. ’

We are thrilled with this feedback!

 The future

 The fun starts now! This area is a real site with real issues and it will now be progressed as a scheme. The land ownership issues are likely to cause some problems but I am hopeful that with the community involved through existing community groups and some discussions with our Local Aldi as well as local salford councilors, we can start a process of dialogue and negotiation. This scheme will enable us to improve the area as a community, handle some local issues like fly tipping head-on, manage our climate challenges more effectively and act as a template for streets across the Height. Bring it on!

I am a landscape architect with experiences in private and public design and green space management. My practice includes the design of interesting urban spaces including roof terraces, courtyards, kitchen gardens and other green oases. I provide both design services as well as project management and green space consultancy across a wide range of urban projects.

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