Manchester-based environmental and engineering consultancy URS has been appointed by the North West Development Agency to identify how best to adapt the landscape stretching from Liverpool to Manchester for the future economic benefit of the region.
URS, which beat BDP and Gillespies to land the work, will identify where 'green infrastructure interventions' could best underpin economic growth, ensure climate change adaptation and mitigation, and improve quality of life for local residents.
A range of 'green' scenarios will be developed for the future of the area, broadly defined as the River Mersey, Bridgewater Canal, and Manchester Ship Canal.
A steering group has been established to guide the research work, chaired by the Mersey Basin Campaign's chief executive Walter Menzies, with representatives from the NWDA, the Homes & Communities Agency, Natural Economy North West and Peel Holdings.
Menzies said: "With the preparatory work for the Integrated Regional Strategy now well under way and partners developing their ideas, this is the right time for our study. There is much to be learned from the experience of our own regional parks and greening initiatives and from international experience such as Emscher Park in Germany.
"In addition, there have been important developments since the previous regional strategy such as the North West region's commitment to address climate change mitigation and adaptation."
Richard Tracey, head of environmental quality at the NWDA, said: "We know from precedents elsewhere, such as the Thames Gateway 'Parklands', that there can be significant climatic and economic benefits to be gained from large scale interventions of this kind. Academic studies also show that the quality of place is a determining factor in the locational decisions of graduate calibre workers, a key to future economic prosperity.
"Whilst this is starting as a research study, the notion of a functional 'green' geography that links the region's two largest cities and the urbanised areas between them, presents an intriguing prospect for further investigation that could create the possibility of a nationally significant green infrastructure initiative."
A range of spatial, environmental and social analyses will be undertaken to develop the study, whose preliminary research phase will be completed by July 2009. Key study partners on the URS team include Urban Practitioners, West 8 and Barnes Walker Landscape Architects.