Urban developers urged to ‘sort out green spaces’

Garden Designer Jason Williams, also known as The Cloud Gardener, is a man on a mission to green up cities  

Greening up urban Manchester
In England, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is mandatory for developers (under Schedule 7A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). Developers must deliver a BNG of 10%, meaning any development will result in more or better-quality habitat than there was before development.   

A man on a mission

Jason feels that developers can do more than the mandatory 10%, and at the RHS Urban Show in Manchester, he has created a series of mini gardens to highlight what developers could do within green spaces.  

Jason Williams on his City Spaces garden“People are crying out for green space, and with the cost-of-living crisis, things are getting so difficult for people across our towns and cities. Green spaces are a fantastic way of helping people with their wellbeing and if we can just encourage developers to take that next step then that could have a massive impact on so many people,” he said speaking at the first RHS Urban Show in Manchester this week.  

Time for a change

Jason thinks developers should change the way they work, by thinking of community, landscapes, and biodiversity first, rather than as an afterthought. “The first thing for me when designing a garden is that it’s all about the client. What developers tend to do is make the space that they want to make and everyone else has to suffer around that.  

“In brand new housing estates, you’ll see vast amounts of lawn, and urban developers often do that as it’s low maintenance and easy for them, but I want to show them that if you create an green space within that housing estate, that would encourage community engagement and bring that community together. 
Here at the RHS Urban Show, we are showing people that you can plant beautifully and intricately, using shade planting, sun-loving perennials and also edibles.”  

Shade planting on the Cloudscapes garden

Creating community spaces

“If I was a developer, I would be going out and finding out what the community wants from that space, because if you are being told that you are going to have a fifty storey building appear next to your home and you are not getting anything from it other than more traffic, more pollution, a higher strain on your local amenities, then you won’t be happy.  

“Instead, if developers were to say, ‘look we’re happy to create pockets which you can use as allotment space and you can use as a community’, then that’s a much easier pill to take. My advice to them is to find out from the community what they want from this space and engage them. It all starts from that community.”  

Mayfield Depot, site of the first RHS Urban Show
“Some developers are doing this better than others. Plant Cooperative, who helped me with this garden are working with Noma in Manchester and they’ve created some really beautiful gardens around Sadler’s Yard in Manchester.
Some have sustainability managers, who may be shouting and screaming, telling those higher up that it needs to change, and not being heard, so I hope this platform will enable them to have some form of backup to say ‘look at the publicity and interest that was generated by this guy.’ So indirectly, or directly, I know this will make a real difference.”

“I know it can be done. We just need to make sure it will be done”  – Jason Williams

An RHS Ambassador’s view

Tayshan Hayden-Smith

Tayshan Hayden-Smith also thinks change is needed when it comes to development and green spaces. “The questions should be, what happened here before? What goes on? What’s the interest? What’s the need? What’s the demand? Understanding the social, political, environmental landscape of the space and the community is key, so that it’s coming from a place of understanding and you’re then well equipped to take those steps forward in collaboration.”

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.