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Northern Roots

Date: 19.12.19 |Categories: Featured

The Northern Roots site

In July 2018, working with Oldham Council, E3M held an Alchemy event in Oldham to help move forward a vision for transforming the town’s green space, Northern Roots. Project Director, Anna da Silva, writes about the project for us here:

There is growing evidence of the importance of urban greenery – to people, places and the planet. Parks, gardens and playgrounds support biodiversity, while promoting health by relieving stress, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat. According to a WHO study from 2017, “Urban green space is a necessary component for delivering healthy, sustainable and liveable cities. Urban green space interventions can deliver positive health, social and environmental outcomes for all population groups, particularly among lower socioeconomic status groups. There are very few, if any, other public health interventions that can achieve all of this.” Yet just as the understanding of the importance of urban greenspace grows, so many councils’ ability to maintain and enhance these spaces is being eroded by budget cuts.

Oldham Council has long recognised the value of its green spaces, and has worked with Public Health and other partners to invest more in them and widen residents’ engagement with them. The town has won North West in Bloom Gold ten times, created five community growing hubs across the borough and trained dozens of new horticulturalists through an apprenticeship programme.

Building on this expertise, we are now developing Northern Roots – the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of under-used green space in the heart of the town. Northern Roots will develop a wide range of activities including agriculture, horticulture, forestry, biodiversity enhancement, sport, nature-based education and eco-tourism. From guided walks to 10k races, music festivals to micro-breweries, citizen science to woodland weddings, Northern Roots will bring this urban greenspace into sustainable, productive use. At the same time we are investing in a brand new, carbon neutral eco centre and nursery to house our environmental services team.

In keeping with Oldham’s cooperative approach, Northern Roots will be developed to boost skills, enterprise and employment opportunities. The project will license and support a wide range of different local social enterprises to develop and operate the site, under the Northern Roots banner. A truly trailblazing project, Northern Roots will pioneer a sustainable new model to improve health, create local wealth and connect communities through enhancing green spaces. The project positions Oldham at the heart of a growing national policy debate about the future funding model for vital urban green spaces. Local authorities and national government, the National Trust and Heritage Lottery are all exploring how new sources of funding can be leveraged into urban parks and green spaces in order to preserve and enhance the outcomes that these spaces provide. Northern Roots is actively working to identify some of the answers to that challenge.

northern-roots.uk will go live from 6th January 2020.

As part of the Growing the New Economy convention, there will be a visit to the Northern Roots site and a special workshop to help shape ideas for the next phase of development of the project. Click here to find out more and to book.