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Sponge Park, West Gorton, Manchester

Sponge Park, West Gorton, Manchester


A  climate resilient park has been created in West Gorton, ManchesterThe park is designed with nature-based solutions to ‘drink’ and absorb rainwater, thereby reducing flood risk. 

West Gorton, Manchester 

2017 – 2020 

What problem did it address?

The park, nicknamed ‘the park that drinks water’, has been created as part of the GrowGreen initiative, the aim of which is to develop an evidence base of costeffective and replicable nature-based solutions which can help cities better adapt to climate change, including surface-water and fluvial flooding, and heat stress.   

How did it do it?

Intended as a focal point for the local community, the park was designed in consultation with local residents, including elderly people and schoolchildren, and includes three separate, interconnected spaces:  

  1. Woodland area: includes a play area, basketball area, a climbing frame and swales. 

  2. Meadow area:  features meadow planting, orchard trees, picnic tables, swales and a rain garden. 

  3. Garden area/Community plaza: includes an event space, a community growing area, a permeable pave plaza, swales and a bio-retention tree pit.       

The park was also designed in consultation with a range of experts, including landscape architects and water engineers, to maximise its effectiveness at redirecting flood water from the surrounding hard-surfaced areas through a series of swales and into a number of rain gardens embedded within the design.  The park has been designed to reduce the amount of flood water entering local sewers which is a key cause of flooding during periods of intense rainfall.     

The Guinness Partnership Ltd led a consultation (with Groundwork) to identify the community’s needs and aspirations for the park and the University of Manchester are monitoring and evaluating its  impact  

Who has benefitted and how?

The park has been designed and built to benefit the local community while also helping to develop research about climate change. 

The park is situated within the heart of the local community, is easily accessible on-foot and by bike, and provides a safe space to play and relax

A range of subtle interventions help to protect the local community from the risk of flooding and help local wildlife populations to flourish.   

What was the cost and how was it developed?

In total, the park cost £1.2 million to create, and was funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The high level of technical expertise required to design and build the park, significantly increased the associated costs.     

Evidence of success

The park opened in 2020 and the University of Manchester are monitoring and evaluating its effectiveness  in reducing the risk of surface-water flooding.  This evidence is being collated and is due to be published in Summer 2022. 

The park was due to be completed earlier in 2020, however its opening was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Due to the incorporation of a number of technical elements in the design and delivery of the park, it presented a greater challenge than most to deliver.  Designing the landscape to redirect the flow of water was particularly challenging and required the expertise of both water engineers and landscape architects.     

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