Building work is well underway to create the new wildlife-rich Green Heart, which is part of the Broad Marsh area and the site of the former shopping centre. This is a key element of the wider Broad Marsh Vision developed by world renowned Heatherwick Studios.

The new green space will be a place to enjoy nature with 38 trees, 34 of them newly planted, plus areas of colourful planting, a new ‘marsh’ area and several footpaths and places to sit.

Sandstone, which is the same the rock on which Nottingham Castle was built and the city’s unique cave system was cut, is being used to create pathways and new large boulders for seating. Plus, there is a long new bench that arcs through the planting and marsh allowing people to sit, enjoy and experience nature. 

The Green Heart is also a key pedestrian route, so there will be a main path creating a clear and direct route from the train station to the city centre. This pedestrian route will be well lit at night and will be the route to all the other seating areas during the day and a place for people with limited mobility to stop and rest.

This new space, which is just the start of the green transformation and is due to be completed this Summer, will enhance biodiversity by creating green, natural habitats and food for wildlife. A key aim is to put the ‘marsh’ back to the Broad Marsh. Plus, this year a new law made it so that all new developments in England must be “nature positive”. This is to help the country meet our target to stop the decline in wildlife by 2030. This means that developers must increase the natural habitat by 10% (Biodiversity Net Gain BNG). The Green Heart has smashed this target and has increases the natural habitat by 438% (BNG).

The design of the Green Heart is unique to Nottingham and has been developed by Townshend Landscape Architects along with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, with Heatherwick Studio retained as a strategic design advisor, with contractor Willmott Dixon carrying out the construction work.

The Green Heart project is being delivered using grant funding secured from Central Government through the Transforming Cities programme.

While the Section 114 report means that money Nottingham City Council can spend is currently strictly controlled, because external grant funding has previously been specifically allocated and approved for this scheme it can go ahead. 

Cllr David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “It’s great to see this area of the Broad Marsh being transformed into a hugely important green space, which is right in the centre of our city. Public feedback in the Big Conversation consultation made it clear that green space was what people wanted – we listened, and we are now delivering.

“Anyone who has visited the area recently will see how much it has changed with lots of greenery, pedestrianised areas and seating. I am particularly pleased that Collin Street is now a family friendly space that people can enjoy right outside the new Central Library. The creation of the Green Heart will take the transformation of Broad Marsh a major step further and will be a beautiful addition to the city centre which is unique to Nottingham.”

Wider regeneration

The Green Heart is the latest piece of the wider Broad Marsh public realm redevelopment. Most recently, a new play space was opened on Collin Street, which features specially designed swings, a play trail with timber stepping blocks, balancing walkways, a seesaw and green planting. This new play space is part of a Playable Cities Initiative and supports the city’s journey to become a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

As well as the new play space, Collin Street is now fully open for people to walk through, with a traffic-free route connecting the Green Heart and Lister Gate, with the new green public space on Sussex Street next to Nottingham College, which features a mini amphitheatre, a skateable space and a multi-use games area.

The Broad Marsh regeneration has already seen the development of a new Central Library, Car Park and Bus Station, well as a new Nottingham College city hub, which has transformed streets and public spaces in the area by increasing footfall, particularly supporting businesses on Lister Gate.

Recently, it was revealed that a new state-of-the-art Community Diagnostic Centre will be located on the Broad Marsh regeneration site and will be run and staffed by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. The CDC will be a one-stop shop which support GPs by providing direct access to diagnostics services such as MRI, CT, x-ray, ultrasound, echocardiography, ECG, and lung function testing.

Nick Heath, director at Willmott Dixon, said: “It’s a privilege to be involved in the transformation of such an important site in Nottingham, a city which many of our own employees live and work in. We have been involved in this regeneration since the demolition of the former Broadmarsh Centre in 2021, so it will be rewarding to deliver a vision we helped begin. Our aim is to always leave a lasting legacy in the communities that surround our work and this project embodies that spirit given the significant social benefits it will bring.”

Speaking on behalf of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Chief Executive Paul Wilkinson said: “The response to our wilder vision for the Broadmarsh redevelopment was tremendous, drawing worldwide interest. We’re delighted to have had an opportunity to shape plans for the Green heart, incorporating high quality wildlife habitat, and hope this exciting approach helps set a new direction for the City’s regeneration – with future developments helping secure more space for nature.”

Gary Alden, senior associate at Townshend Landscape Architects, said “our design process was to bring nature back into this city centre location by creating ecologically rich and colourful planting for people to enjoy.  Rainwater run-off collected from Collin Street will be sustainably managed and filtered through planting by introducing an urban pond. This formed a key design aspiration for the Green Heart, to bring the ‘marsh’ back to the Broad Marsh.”

Ares Landscape Architects are completing the design on behalf of Contractor Willmott Dixon. Associate Director Kate Shearer, said: “It was important that the detailed design proposals were faithful to the concepts established by Townshend Landscape Architects. We worked collaboratively to support Willmott Dixon with their construction activities. Much of the design was bespoke and great attention to detail and care had to be taken executing the works to ensure the imagination of the concept became a reality on site”