How to create green cities for all

There are many reasons why we need our cities to be green: to improve citizen health; to reduce flood risk; to keep us cool in ever hotter summers; to provide homes for wildlife; to clean the air we breathe, the list goes on. So, if there are so many benefits, why aren’t all our cities green?

There are lots of reasons. The GrowGreen project is looking to address:

  1. Keeping it simple and talking the right language

With terms like ‘green infrastructure’, ‘nature-based solutions’, ‘ecosystem services’, it is no wonder that the people we need to be taking action – citizens, developers, politicians, policy-makers, planners, local business owners, and others – are not making the most of their potential to green the places they live, work and study.

To get these people involved, we – the ‘green infrastructure experts’ – need to talk their language, and talk about the things that matter to them. And with so many benefits from green spaces and waterways, it should be easy to find a common interest to start the conversation.

  1. Plan your green city and involve the potential ‘beneficiaries’ in its development

Across the whole city, within plans for major development and regeneration, or even down to small-scale projects, we need to include green spaces and waterway as integral parts. Key to this is the active involvement of those who will benefit from green infrastructure, and not just through consulting them on partly developed plans. Harnessing the enthusiasm and knowledge of potential beneficiaries – local citizens, developers, housing companies, the water company, health providers, local Government, and others – will help to develop plans that are much more likely to succeed.

  1. Beneficiaries as investors

By jointly creating a plan for an area, your ‘beneficiaries’ now have a shared vision and the motivation for making it happen. Through investing their time and money, these are the people and organisations that stand to benefit from creating and managing new and existing green spaces and waterways. As well as finding new sources of funding, you should aim to re-direct existing sources of funding, to achieve better value for money and outcomes than those that are typically achieved.

To put all of this into practice the GrowGreen project is producing a simple, easy-to-use package:  the Green Cities Framework and Training Programme. In some areas this will require us to create new materials and information, but as far as possible we will be making use of existing resources, repackaging and ‘translating’ them so that they can be used by the full range of different people and organisations that need to be involved in the greening of cities. And to make sure it works effectively we will be testing it in our partner cities and improving it accordingly.

The Green Cities Framework will be available at


Jonny Sadler
Project Manager, GrowGreen Project
Programme Director, Manchester Climate Change Agency