Northern Roots is a pioneering project creating the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of stunning green space in the heart of Oldham.
A Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy
The Northern Roots site is an amazing asset. Stretching from Alexandra Park, along the River Medlock, it encompasses flat grass land, heath, boggy wetlands and dense wooded slopes.
TEP produced a green and blue infrastructure strategy for the project. We examined how the urban farm could incorporate sustainable drainage measures that enhance biodiversity, such as bioswales, attenuation ponds and permeable paving.
Next, we looked at how the whole site could be set up as a “habitat bank” with a view to securing biodiversity net gain contributions from developers in and around Oldham.
The soil on site is in poor condition, due in part to past landfilling, so we looked at how the soil resource of the site could be be enriched to act as a carbon store. We advised on how soil biodiversity might be enhanced. By adding green waste compost and planting trees and wildflower grasslands, we estimated an extra 80 million earthworms would be present in ten years’ time!
Low and Zero Carbon Strategy
The Northern Roots team want the project to contribute to Oldham Council’s aspiration to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. The aim is to utilise the Northern Roots site to mitigate climate change and contribute to targets in Greater Manchester’s Five Year Environment Plan.
We advised on building energy performance and how renewable energy generation opportunities could be built into site operations. This included solar arrays, battery storage, ground, air and water source heat pumps; and biomass boilers for space heating. The latter would use the arisings from woodland management on the site and elsewhere within Oldham Council-managed parks.
Adding Value to Local People and Businesses
The aim is to develop Northern Roots in a way that creates jobs, skills and business opportunities for local people, while preserving and enhancing the biodiversity and environmental value of the site. And now, with the Covid 19 pandemic impacting all of our lives, to use this green space to support communal health and wellbeing.
We prepared a woodland management plan, showing how Northern Roots can use its 43 hectares of woodland as a community and economic asset, whilst also tackling problems of ash dieback disease.
TEP was assisted in the work by EPG Limited (sustainable drainage), Element Sustainability (low and zero carbon), Ecological Restoration Solutions (soil carbon and biodiversity) and Hive Land and Planning (green and blue infrastructure financing). Planit are skilled masterplanners who have helped the Northern Roots team establish the project and have provided the images of how the site might look.