We have previously undertaken work with Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and Swansea Council on Green Infrastructure as a key component of urban regeneration. Green Infrastructure (GI) is the concept that greenery isn’t just a nice to have, it provides multiple ecosystem services, from cleaning the air and water, reducing temperatures in summer, insulating buildings in winter, providing habitat for pollinators (without whom none of us going to last very long), absorbing noise, and providing health and wellbeing benefits. On top of that, done well, there is evidence that more and better GI also contributes to the economic health of cities from individual residents to businesses of all shapes and sizes. The early work was on strategy and securing funding sources, but that then begs the question of who delivers and maintains this new growth industry?
So, partnering with Natural Resources Wales and Swansea Council, and funded by Community Renewal Funding (CRF) from UK Government, we established a small pilot project in Swansea, to deliver a series of GI-focused training sessions, the overall aim of which was to begin to create a local supply chain capable of delivering and maintaining Green Infrastructure (GI).
There was a need to equip landscape gardeners, maintenance organisations, urban designers and third sector organisations with the knowledge and tools to tap into the GI market and impact its development within Swansea, creating a new local green sector.
What we did
Following a successful application to the UK Government Community Renewal Fund, Natural Resources Wales, Swansea Council, and Urban Foundry embarked on a collaborative endeavour.
The partnership designed and delivered a series of training courses led by experts in the field of GI. These workshops were offered at no cost to participants, thanks to the funding provided.
The project delivered a total of 11 sessions, attended by a total of 176 attendees.
The sessions covered a wide range of topics related to green infrastructure theory and practice, including, living walls, installing and maintaining green roofs, rain planters and sustainable drainage systems. The training sessions were a mix of workshops and seminars and practical sessions in building rain planters and tree planting.
The sessions also afforded the attendees the opportunity to make contacts with both key stakeholders within the local authority and Natural Resources Wales teams, but also with other like-minded and environmentally focused organisations and businesses in their local area, creating the opportunity for networking, collaboration and the chance to explore plans for the future.
Impact of our work
The workshops quickly reached full capacity and had waiting lists. The project marked the initial steps toward establishing a local supply chain for delivering and maintaining green infrastructure.
90% of the respondents stated that they had improved their understanding, awareness and skills in the green infrastructure sector. Additionally, 87% of those taking part in the course stated that they were likely to start installing green infrastructure. An independent evaluation report also highlighted the positive impacts of the project.
This element of the project has the potential to create both new jobs and new businesses for the area in the future, and the positive feedback and impact on local businesses suggests that continuing to fund such initiatives is an important part of achieving net zero and supporting green businesses.
By educating, training, and empowering local suppliers, the project sought to build capacity within the region. This growing expertise will not only benefit local businesses but also contribute to urban regeneration efforts by promoting nature-based solutions. The positive response to the workshops underscores the need for such initiatives and highlights the potential for a strong green sector in Swansea.
The project’s success is a testament to the power of collaboration and the immense potential of green infrastructure to shape a brighter and greener future for Swansea Bay and we are working with various partners to now build on the success of the first phase pilot.