WEST MIDLANDS NATIONAL PARK
West Midlands, UK
Photograph by Alamy
The Maria Nobrega Foundation (MNF) joined the Board of the new West Midlands National Park (WMNP) in 2018. The vision to create a National Park in the West Midlands, which would span more than seven cities and create hundreds of miles of green space, conservation areas and new cycle routes has been unveiled and would make the region home to the UK’s 16th official National Park.
The WMNP proposals were drawn up by Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University who said:
“For a long time the West Midlands has been viewed as a concrete jungle and the way that we have carried out our planning and construction has fed into that but if you look at the maps in a different way, there is huge potential for this project.”
In 2020, ITKI UK was launched as part of the West Midlands National Park Lab. The International Traditional Knowledge Institute (ITKI) is the hub of an international proposal for the inventory, preservation and dissemination of innovative traditional knowledge. The WMNP is uniting the people of the West Midlands of the UK with their territory, culture and heritage. Its purpose is to create a better quality of life, jobs and environment for the future with thriving, healthy and resilient communities from a radically new perspective, providing an overarching context for a range of post-Covid recovery interventions, the route to a zero-carbon regional economy and a roadmap to increased and inclusive regional prosperity, spatial and environmental justice and growth.
The West Midlands National Park is a 30 year spatial vision and catalyst for the transformation of the region. A new kind of urban national park, it “exists as a way of getting people to act and think differently” that was applauded and strongly supported by the UK Government’s review of Landscapes (2018). It is based on pilot studies including the Black Country Urban Park (2005) and HS2LV, presented at the International Protection of Landscapes Conference introduced by HRH The Prince of Wales, on the occasion of the establishment of the International Traditional Knowledge Institute (ITKI) in 2012, in partnership with UNESCO and the public administrations of Tuscany, the Italian Ministry of Environment, private foundations and non-profits, international experts and scholars.
The vision has also gained support from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman and other key bodies around the region.
The concept of the WMNP was unveiled at the Critical Artistic Thinking in Design Conference, would have the potential to support further regeneration, boost environmental conservation, improve transport link and drive inward investment and tourism into the region. Landscape Architects working on the vision suggest once detailed case studies have been carried out, a West Midland National Park could see the area categorised as ‘a region of a thousand cycle and footpaths, a thousand parks and a thousand lakes’ featuring extensive:
New forests and woodlands
Systems of rainwater gardens and sustainable urban drainage
Increased and better connected areas of biodiversity
Engaged communities and networks working towards a new vision of what the West Midlands
Combined Authority region could become in 20 years’ time.
The vision has been crafted to show the region in a different way by inverting maps, which traditionally highlight roads and building infrastructure, to instead focus on the contours of the landscape, its rivers, streams and canal networks, heritage biodiversity, identity and culture.
Birmingham has more than 8,000 acres of green spaces and parks – more than any other city in Europe – and has more miles of canals than Venice, the days of the heavy polluting industry are gone, with a close inspection of its landscape revealing numerous areas of natural beauty.
Tame Valley Wetland Landscape Vision: understanding the relationship between the canals,
the river valleys, woodland remnants and the built environment, 2016, Kathryn Jane Moore