Juliet Staples: Lessons Learnt From Liverpool’s Green Regeneration


Liverpool is a front-runner city in the international EU-funded Horizon 2020, URBAN GreenUP project, whose remit is to retrofit a range of nature-based solutions (NBS) across the city and to monitor them for their multiple environmental, social, and economic benefits. 

Since the official launch of the project in June 2017 there have been many lessons learnt and things we wished we had done differently. These are three things we wish we had known at the start.

Good procurement and contract management processes are fundamental to success

Initially we probably didn’t fully appreciate the importance of good procurement processes for successful delivery of works. Although procurement processes often take longer than you initially think, our work has shown that the effort put in at the start will often predict the outcome. The larger more innovative works needed detailed specification and comprehensive contract management, and as a result generally completed on time, within budget and without issue. Lighter touch procurement on some of the simpler, smaller works sometimes proved to be more problematic.

Expect the unexpected

We accepted early on that there would be things we didn’t know and couldn’t predict. To help accommodate the unexpected, we factored in longer delivery times and a minimum 10% project contingency budget. Who knew that green walls would become classed as external cladding, following the Grenfell Tower report, and require additional specialist (and unbudgeted) fire regulation calculations? Or that a simple drainage connection in a quiet cul-de-sac required co-ordination of several services, two separate approvals and a road closure (each with an unexpected delay and additional cost)?

But there have also been unexpected benefits: at the start we hadn’t anticipated we would make new international friends and consolidate local community contacts or that we would attract business sponsorship and interest. We were also surprised and delighted to be invited to talk about our work globally and collaborate on several publications and other follow-on projects.

Be flexible and focus on delivering what is achievable.

Things change all the time, more so over a long project and increasingly unexpectedly during a pandemic. Over the 5-6 years of the project, the landscape and city changed; new buildings went up, politicians’ faces changed, public priorities and approval processes altered. Against this backdrop, as we progressed to detailed site investigation work, the initial scope of some projects changed and a few even became technically unviable.  

The final raingarden was smaller than originally proposed but included additional features and importantly, was the first in the city, providing a blueprint to build upon for others. The location of a water-retention pond in a park had to be adjusted to accommodate a previously unmapped manhole but the redesign offered better opportunities for complimentary marginal and wildflower planting, and the project has received many compliments. Delays to other projects allowed more time to engage with community groups and key city landowners enabling us to deliver bigger and better projects in prime city locations.  

No-one (other than you) will remember the compromises you needed to make, but everyone will remember that you delivered an improvement and made a change.

Dr Juliet Staples is the Senior Project Manager for URBAN GreenUP in Liverpool. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 730426

Recommended from Carbon Copy