Manchester’s new ‘sponge park’ helps tackle effects of climate change

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Sponge Park (Image by Manchester City Council)

A new community park in West Gorton in Manchester, dubbed the “sponge park” for the way it contributes to helping tackle the effects of climate change, has been formally opened to the public.

Designed in consultation with residents to benefit local people, wildlife and the environment, West Gorton Community Park is made up of three separate, interconnected spaces.

Executive Member for the Environment, Planning and Transport, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, commented on the opening: “The ‘Sponge Park’ will serve as a wonderful model for how green spaces can help us to tackle the effects of climate change.

“Its intelligent design will reduce the risk of local flooding, as well as helping create a more attractive, healthier environment for West Gorton residents to enjoy.”

The woodland area has a planted ‘rain garden’, which offers an opportunity to manage rainwater runoff from hard surfaces after downpours with a low maintenance, wildlife-friendly space.

The park also holds a wetland meadow, picnic area, plus an informal play area with an outdoor climbing wall and timber play features.

A meadow area features orchard trees, picnic tables, edible hedgerows, exploration play and a stepping stone trail, while the park’s garden area includes an event space, community growing space and seating.

The park is situated in the heart of the community, with clear pedestrian routes and road crossing points, to ensure access for residents from the local neighbourhood and to encourage people to walk or cycle to the park.

Provision of the new park is the final element of the West Gorton regeneration programme, which has seen the complete transformation of the neighbourhood, with new housing and new community facilities completed over the last 11 years.

Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Suzanne Richards, commented: “This beautiful new park for West Gorton marks the completion of a major programme of regeneration, which has lasted for more than a decade, bringing high-quality new housing and community facilities to revitalise this neighbourhood.”

The park has been developed thanks to funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, as part of GrowGreen, a Europe-wide initiative.

GrowGreen aims to demonstrate how green infrastructure and nature-based solutions will produce climate resilience, environmental, social, and health and well-being outcomes and benefits.

The council’s partners in the West Gorton project are the Guinness Partnership Ltd and the University of Manchester.

The Partnership led a consultation to identify the community’s needs and aspirations for the open spaces and, through engaging with the community, raised awareness about the challenges of climate change to inspire local people to take pride in and ownership of the new park.

The University of Manchester are monitoring and evaluating the impact of the green infrastructure on the community and the neighbourhood, as part of the wider GrowGreen project.