Project Overview

This case study is featured in UKGBC’s report, A Guide for Delivering Social Value on Built Environment Projects.

Strategic real estate advisor Avison Young, and local charity Groundwork Greater Manchester, with support from the IGNITION partnership, are undertaking an exciting pilot project throughout 2021/22 named ‘Greening Swinton Square’. Swinton Square is an established retail asset in Salford, Greater Manchester, which has been used by the community for over 45 years and currently comprises a range of retail, leisure and residential units. The Greening Swinton Square project aims to demonstrate how nature-based solutions (NBS) can be an integral part of the design of town centres. By delivering ‘more than just greening’ NBS can contribute to climate and nature outcomes, whilst also improving the vibrancy of town centres. As part of the wider IGNITON project, Greening Swinton Square is an example of how the city region can increase its resilience to the impacts of climate change by working with a range of landowners and communities. Engagement with Salford City Council has ensured that this project fits in with wider plans for the regeneration of Swinton town centre and it could form a model for other town centres across the city. To date, Greening Swinton Square has engaged various community stakeholders on the topic of NBS; what they are, how they can be used and the benefits they can bring. Following a series of engagement activities, Groundwork and Avison Young have started to work with residents, business owners and shopping centre visitors to co-design several NBS, such as living walls, green roofs, and rain gardens, which will be installed by the Groundwork team in spring 2022.

The Greening Swinton Square team have undertaken a creative engagement approach to establish the projects baseline, agree social value outcomes and develop the NBS design solutions, these include:

  • The creation of an on-site community hub in an empty retail unit. The hub has been home to interactive demonstrations of living walls, rain gardens and green roofs, allowing visitors to see, touch and feel these concepts and gain a much better understanding of NBS.
  • Interactive on-site events to understand community wants, needs and preferences.
  • Observations using MOHAWk tool5 (Method for Observing Physical Activity and Wellbeing) to record how people are using the space now.

Installation of the NBS is expected in March 2022, beyond this Avison Young and Groundwork Greater Manchester have committed to monitor the NBS, exploring the benefits and impact they have, as well as ensuring their ongoing maintenance.

What makes the project interesting?

  • Greening Swinton Square seeks to demonstrate the tangible benefits of investing in NBS beyond the immediate environmental and wellbeing benefits; exploring improved building performance and economic value to inform the investment case.
  • The partnership between Groundwork, as a local charity, Avison Young, as a commercial real estate manager, and wider IGNITION public sector partners, has allowed us to build a trusted relationship with stakeholders, gain in depth local knowledge and ensure a better understanding of stakeholder interests and what matters to each stakeholder group.

Future considerations: 

Once the full baseline data is in place, Avison Young will work with Groundwork Greater Manchester to develop a Social Value Measurement Framework and plan for ongoing monitoring and reporting.

Approaches Used

The project used an iterative approach, re-visiting some of the steps of the process multiple times, making refinements based on stakeholder engagement.

Key Sustainability Objectives/ Outcomes

Social value outcomes:

Health, Wellbeing and the Environment

  • Reduces pollution and street noise.
  • Better management of surface flooding.
  • Vital habitats and resources for a variety of local wildlife.
  • Potentially improved building performance through natural cooling.
  • Increased access to green space enhancing the health and wellbeing of the local community.

Strength of Community

  • Creates more opportunities to connect with, and learn about, nature.
  • A more attractive and vibrant local centre, which retains existing and attracts new users.

Jobs and Economic Growth

  • Potentially reduces centre costs through natural temperature control of buildings and management of surface water flows.
  • Provides an opportunity for an SME and registered charity, Groundwork Greater Manchester, to build expertise and utilise learning around NBS, to replicate in other places and settings, including community spaces.
  • Builds an investment case for green infrastructure, including NBS, within plans for local and district centres by demonstrating multiple benefits to a range of stakeholder.

Lessons Learnt

  • Early engagement with priority stakeholders, especially the Landlord (e.g. awareness of project decision windows/deadlines)
  • Regular engagement with beneficiaries to avoid misunderstandings (e.g. levels of disruption from construction work only days not weeks/months)
  • Early procurement decision-making and contingency options in order to mitigate supply chain disruption (e.g. COVID and the Suez Canal incident)
  • Ongoing collaboration throughout the lifecycle of the project (e.g. shopping centre management changed twice during the project)
  • Ongoing engagement with local stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project (e.g. stakeholders consulted at pre-design, delivery and post project to help with co-design and measure impact)

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