Wildlife Trust launches ambitious vision for a post-Covid wildscape to replace bleak Broadmarsh Shopping Centre

Following the collapse of the operators of Nottingham’s Broadmarsh shopping centre, INTU, and the return of the site’s lease to Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, a locally based charity which has championed wildlife in the city for over 30 years, has developed a bold vision in which this key area of the city centre site is reimagined as 100% natural greenspace.

A reimagined view across the site of the former Broadmarsh shopping centre from Weekday Cross
(Visual prepared for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust by Influence Landscape Architects)

Since the site was handed back to the Council in the summer, there has been much talk locally over the site’s future. A change.org petition started by Cameron Ewan of West Bridgford calling for the area to be transformed into public greenspace secured almost 11,000 signatures and other polls have also supported calls for a new greenspace.

As Nottingham seeks to recover from the human and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that a Broadmarsh re-imagined as natural greenspace would improve the health of city residents, provide vital access to nature for those without gardens and stimulate investment.

Speaking about the vision Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Paul Wilkinson said: “By putting people and nature at the heart of plans for the Broadmarsh site Nottingham City Council can grasp a once in a generation opportunity to carve out a green future for the city centre. As well as signalling the City’s commitment to helping secure 30% of land across the UK for nature by 2030, this new vision would support Nottingham’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city, boost tourism and ensure that Nottingham stands out from the crowd as cities across the UK compete for investment to rebuild their economies after the impact of Covid-19.”

Despite the City’s stated ambition to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city it was recently ranked at number 18 in a list of the UK’s green cities2 following an assessment taking into account measures including emission, transport, waste and nature. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that a statement natural greenspace in the heart of the city would build climate change resilience, improve connectivity for people and provide an attractive backdrop for existing businesses as well as drawing in new investors – and is calling on people living and working in the City to back its vision via a new campaign page wtru.st/wilder-broadmarsh

As new development has replaced old, fragments of remaining greenspace and areas of ephemeral habitat, close to the former Broadmarsh Centre have disappeared and opportunities to recreate vital new green areas have been lost. Turning an area renowned for demonstrating the worst elements of 1960s concrete architecture into a green gateway into the city would demonstrate the Council’s commitment to tackling the climate and ecological crises with imagination as we enter a decade which must deliver transformational change.

Paul explained: “For more than a decade Nottingham has demonstrated ambition in its commitment to becoming the UK’s first carbon neutral city. By putting nature and accessible greenspace at the heart of urban planning it can now show leadership by creating a vibrant city which supports people’s health and happiness and which has a more secure and greener economic future. Whilst Nottingham has greenspaces to be proud of there are clear gaps in provision, most notably in the heart of our city which is unmistakably grey not green. Now is the time to put nature back.”

The Trust believes the location of Broadmarsh is the ideal site for the City to demonstrate its commitment to its flagship Wellbeing Design Guide published by the Council in January – taking a truly ‘nature first’ approach which would be viewed as a statement of intent that the it wishes to take a lead on the environment and build a greener future.

The charity has worked with Influence Landscape Architects to reimagine the space transformed with wildlife habitats reflecting the site’s history as a wetland alongside the ancient course of the River Leen and long lost gardens. The vision for the site includes accessible walkways based on a centuries old city street plan to reconnect key parts of the city.

Speaking on behalf of Influence Landscape Architects Managing Director Sara Boland said: “It has become critically important for people, especially city centre dwellers to have positive, well designed, and diverse easily accessible public open spaces to visit. It became apparent in the first lockdown that as more people sought enjoyment from outdoor spaces to provide regular exercise, our role in the provision of such spaces, and our understanding of the social and spatial implications of COVID-19 were only just being realised. Open space in cities is often formal, structured and in pockets and this presented the opportunity for a completely unfettered and wild approach to a substantial space. A chance to make a fundamental difference and influence the landscape of our closest city Nottingham.

Combine that with the fact that rewilding of urban spaces is now an identified and real opportunity in landscape design and that money is in short supply for extensive aftercare strategies of heavily designed landscapes, the opportunities to think outside the box presented itself in a unique way with this partnership approach to the unique space of Broadmarsh.”

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes the vison could boost the health of city residents, stimulate tourism and draw people to live, work and invest in Nottingham.  Exciting opportunities also exist to explore the potential for sustainable urban farming in the remaining structures of the former shopping centre beneath the ground level – replicating the productive use of the city’s famous cave system.

Following the announcement of the Government’s new ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution backed by a package of at least £12bn of funding for green growth, the Wildlife Trust believes that the vision for the Broadmarsh should be seen as one of a range of opportunities for Nottingham to secure its fair share of funds earmarked for green recovery and green growth.

Paul concluded: “Transforming the Broadmarsh into a natural greenspace would bring people together and start putting the city’s nature into recovery at a time when natural greenspace has never been more valued or needed. It could also act as a springboard to securing investment in green growth and green infrastructure and deliver the long term aspiration of reconnect our city to the ancient Sherwood Forest landscape and we’re calling on people to back our vision.”

A reimagined view across the site of the former Broadmarsh shopping centre from Collin Street looking towards Nottingham Castle
(Visual prepared for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust by Influence Landscape Architects)

Further details of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s vision for the Broadmarsh site as natural greenspace can be found at https://www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/broadmarsh-reimagined

Find out more here: Going wild? A radical green plan for Nottingham’s unloved shopping centre | Environment | The Guardian