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Warrington Waterfront


We are fortunate to have so many waterways in Warrington – not only do they form important natural “blue” infrastructure and are attractive features in themselves - they provide us with the opportunities for leisure and serve as a commercial transport system through the centre of our town.


We have perhaps not made enough of the River Mersey thus far - indeed it is easy to forget sometimes that it is there. But plans by Warrington Borough Council and its partners are about to change all that. With the proposed complete regeneration of the waterfront the landscape could be completely reimagined - with homes, retail, social architecture, entertainment and green and business space - that would alter the complexion of the town centre area and be a place of which we can be proud. 


Warrington Borough Council have produced a masterplan for the development of several areas around the town centre – from the central district itself at Bridgefoot / Wilderspool Causeway, across to the Bank Quay area and then beyond that, heading south towards Walton and Moore where the landscape becomes more natural – and there is surely an opportunity to embrace and enhance this in any future development.

The significant feature though is the river itself and much could be made of this when considering what should be built alongside it.


It is noted that the masterplan for Warrington town centre includes an image of the Stockholm waterfront. As with some parts of the UK, there are a number of impressive designs for living in other places with a similar climate to ours, particularly those which build around a waterfront; Malmo, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Utrecht, to name but a few. This is perhaps a good basis from which to consider themes and ideas for the homes, business premises and features of the area. It speaks of history, heritage, water commerce, modern city living – but with a focus on access to green space too.


If we simply quickly build the usual bland, steel, brick or glass block apartments or permit one of the large housing developers to cover the area in the ubiquitous “red box” housing estates for the sake of speed and cost then we will undo the architecturally excellent work already completed at Time Square and Bridge Street in the town centre. This is our opportunity for a reset: to consider how we can carefully develop our town from the central core outwards – with a view to retaining new, attractive, architecture for decades to come. The quick fix is out; sustainability is in.


With this in mind we recently created a brochure of ideas for the waterfront that envisages a maritime, Northern European coastal city theme with attractive housing, urban allotments, community green space, interesting street furniture and interesting social architecture. We sent the brochure to a number of people connected with town centre regeneration and this resulted in a discussion with John Laverick, Head of Development at Warrington & Co, who told us that ideas in the brochure were pretty much what they had in mind for the waterfront area. This great news - let's see what happens! 


*excerpt from our Warrington Waterfront Ideas brochure. Read it in full here

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Could Warrington model itself on London?


(no, not that one - although it does have its own Thames River...)

With plans to enhance green space in the town centre,  including greater focus on the "circular parklands" - those which form a broadly green garland around the core of Warrington,  we wondered how this idea could be developed further. It seems inevitable that the traditional model of the "town centre" will need to be repurposed and regenerated as online retail expands further, businesses disappear from the high street, there becomes an increasing demand for permanent home working and of course, the need to provide more housing. Conversion of former businesses and shops into dwellings is already being planned and there is apparently a keenness to retain and preserve much of the period architecture in the central areas of Warrington - which is not only a more sustainable choice but will also help to ensure that there is variety and character in the town's built environment. But can we do more in terms of green space and sustainability to further enhance the townscape? How could we employ nature based solutions to improve biodiversity, air quality and help to combat the impact of climate change?


We are at a juncture in the planning for Warrington's future and so this is the ideal opportunity to consider how best to move forward.


If we're going to rethink our town centre, and particularly as the masterplanning for Warrington is still underway, what about better linking our peripheral parks, woodlands, open fields, nature reserves and waterways with truly green corridors and take the concept right through the heart of the town centre?


If you want an idea of what this could look like consider London, Ontario, Canada, known as "The Forest City". 


London, a city of around 400,000 residents, has a green history from its founding when it was originally dense woodland, but unlike other cities that have bulldozed the majority of their trees to make way for building, this city has grown within with its woodlands and with the exception of some stripping away in the past to make way for development, it has largely retained its "city in the forest" credentials. 

And further replanting schemes are in force: for every 1500 trees that are chopped down each year due to poor health, another 5000 are planted. Their aim is to ensure that the urban forest remains viable for future generations.The city attracts a mix of residents and is filled with parks, biking trails and riverfront walking paths. It is also a cultural centre, with concerts in the public gardens, a sporting hub, it is home to its own winter and summer festivals and also numerous city wide community events. Their buildings are probably not what we as a town would desire for ourselves, but as a city forest model it works brilliantly.


This is something Warrington could certainly emulate and is eminently achievable. We could effectively link the wonderful, ancient woodlands of Lumb Brook Valley to the wildlife of Woolston Eyes nature reserve to the lovely peaty bogginess of Risley Moss (London, Ontario also has its own "Sift Bog") to the small urban forest, 'Mary Ann Plantation' in Westbrook - with continuous green walkways and cycleways lined with mature trees, plants, urban gardens and grassland passing through the streets of  the town centre.


This would mean blocking off some central streets to traffic and infilling them with grass, trees and pathways. Parking could be mainly located outside the centre so that people could walk in or take a regular electric bus operating on a loop. The town could become a place of living and leisure with a focus on outdoor all weather entertainment. 


Buildings would, as a matter of course, have green borders, whether with grass or through extensive planting. There would be roof gardens and living walls. There would be urban allotments in overlooked and unloved spaces around the town centre. If there really is no hope of regenerating and saving a building, in its place could be a copse, or shrub garden.


Having green infrastructure in place that brings the town together in a coherent way could also better connect communities from all areas in Warrington and make the town an attractive, happier, healthier place to live. 

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