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New greener cities initiative launched

Anglo-Dutch “Greener Cities” initiative takes root with first Innovation Day

Roxana de Raad, Chief Representative at the Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) in Manchester reviews May’s highly successful Greener Cities event.

“The idea behind the Greener Cities event was to show NBSO’s commitment to working with the local business community in the UK’s Northern cities. It was also an excellent opportunity to promote the Netherlands’ experience and expertise in regenerating urban environments through innovative design and landscaping. We want to encourage UK and Dutch companies and government bodies to work together to support practical, cost effective projects to make the local cities greener.”

The Greener Cities: Urban Landscaping Innovation Day was held in Manchester on 13 May.

The day started with presentations from Dutch business leaders with proven expertise in transforming urban landscapes. It was the launch of what we hope will be a series of long term, mutually profitable business partnerships between Dutch and British companies. In particular, it demonstrated many innovative ways to create sustainable green spaces in urban areas.

The afternoon programme was joined by the then Lord Mayor of Manchester, Susan Cooley, who planted a tree donated by Van Ebben Tree Nursery in Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens, as well as accepting four flower boxes donated by Village Sensation. The Dutch bulb company JUB Holland also donated 25,000 bee-friendly bulbs to promote biodiversity, which community groups will plant across the city. In the afternoon delegates from British and Dutch companies watched a demonstration of innovative Dutch machinery planting a further 25,000 summer flowering bulbs in Walton Gardens, Warrington.

The Lord Mayor, Susan Cooley, commented during the ceremony: “These beautiful gifts will help to brighten up our city and I am delighted to accept them on behalf of the people of Manchester”.

The NBSO organised the day to highlight its commitment to working with the local business community. “The Dutch Government sees the potential of the UK’s Northern cities,” says Roxana de Raad, Chief Representative at the NBSO’s Manchester office. “It’s why we have an official business office here. We also want to contribute to local policies that help make the city centres more attractive to businesses and residents. This includes looking at innovative ways to re-generate green spaces in an easy, sustainable and cost effective way. The Netherlands has pioneered a number of new green technologies and products to bring these goals within easy reach, and the innovation day offered a great opportunity to share best practices between the two countries.”

The positive energy of flowers and plants

 JUB Holland have been heavily involved in several UK projects, including providing the bulbs for this year’s  Tulips for Liberators flower mosaics in Kew Gardens and Lincoln Cathedral to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied liberation of the Netherlands.  JUB demonstrated their bulb planting machinery in Warrington’s Walton Gardens, as part of our Greener Cities day, and they donated 50,000 bulbs for planting across Manchester and nearby Warrington.

“With our special planting machines a local council can plant 25,000 bulbs an hour in grass as opposed to around 5,000 a day with manual planting,” explains JUB’s Robbert Uittenbogaard.  The bulbs were JUB’s “Happy Bee Mixture”, which have been designated “bee-friendly” by The British Bee keepers Association for their biodiversity credentials.  They are also “budget-friendly” as the bulbs will flower over a period of up to six months, so you save money on mowing, and they will last for a minimum of ten years.

We were also delighted to welcome Village Sensation, a Dutch company specialising in brightening-up towns and public spaces with cost effective flowers and plants. As well as the familiar flower boxes and hanging baskets, councils and companies can buy or rent their low maintenance, mobile flower towers that, generally, don’t need planning permission.  “The towers use just six to eight plants,” explains Jos Smit of Village Sensation, “making them stronger. So, you get more flowers with less work.”

“Flowers and plants are very important to people’s well-being,” continues Jos. “Research shows that crime is lower when the environment appears well cared for and friendly. So, we were happy to donate four large, mobile planters to the City of Manchester as part of this important project.”

Dutch and UK companies working together  

Ebben tree nurseries in Cuijk, the Netherlands has been growing their distinctive range of environmentally-friendly trees and shrubs since 1862. “Our trees and plants come in many shapes, sizes and colours and suit a variety of soil types, “ says Marko Mouwen of Ebben. “As such, they have many different uses. We are always happy to share knowledge with our UK partners to ensure we create the right atmosphere, encourage biodiversity and make best use of the existing infrastructure. Due to the unique composition of our nursery’s soil and the absence of stones, we find that our UK partners are particularly impressed by how well the new tree types thrive in British soil.”  Ebben generously donated a multi-stem Purple leaved tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima / “purple dragon”) to the City of Manchester, which the Lord Mayor planted in the city’s Cathedral Gardens on our Greener Cities day.

Mecanoo, a leading architecture practice based in Delft with an office in Manchester, presented their vision of how architecture, urban planning and landscaping can combine to create greener, healthier cities. They drew on their experience of taking the infrastructure of a city and making it greener with roof gardens and parklets (mini gardens in parking spaces). This vision can be seen in two impressive Mecanoo projects in Manchester; the design of HOME, a lively cultural venue, and the green spaces of NOMA, one the largest regeneration projects in the UK with 20 acres of mixed use space. Ongoing work includes the £200m University of Manchester Engineering Campus due for completion in 2019.

Sharing best practice

The Netherlands has pioneered technologies and products to help make cities greener and more attractive to businesses and residents. And, the Dutch government fully recognises the great business potential of the UK’s Northern cities; that’s why the NBSO has opened its official UK office in Manchester. After the success of this first Greener Cities event, we are keen to continue building relationships and sharing best practice with public and private organisations in the landscaping and gardens sector.

If you have any questions or would like further information or photographs of the Greener Cities  event please contact Roxana de Raad or Els Steiger at the NBSO on +44 (0) 161 834 6033.

You can find further information about the companies mentioned in this article on their websites:






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