Creating a new national park for the West Midlands

Landscape architecture academics at Birmingham City University have partnered with a number of organisations, including West Midlands Combined Authorities, to establish a national park for the West Midlands that provides multiple benefits to the city, the landscape and its inhabitants.

Research background – repositioning the West Midlands

Professor Kathryn Moore and Dr Anastasia Nikologianni, based within the Creative Artistic Thinking in Design (CATiD) research hub, are developing a proposal for a national park that will give the West Midlands a brand new identity and position it as a sustainable leader.

The project is unique to the UK, receiving the green light from a Governmental review, and endorsed and applauded by environment secretary Michael Gove in the recently-published Review of Landscapes.

“Birmingham has been known as the city of a thousand trades – imagine if it becomes the city of a thousand cycle paths, footpaths, rivers and parks?” Kathryn says.

“The West Midlands National Park project will be a beacon for reimagining place and the way citizens experience it.” 

Research background - Transforming regional identity

The project will help to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which pledges to improve sustainability and take urgent action on climate change.

“It will reconceptualise the region by realising new, holistic and integrated approaches to urban and rural development,” Kathryn explains.

“It brings a fresh perspective to outdated practices, and helps address a need for a new approach, particularly in terms of the deepening climate emergency, food and water security. The park will be instrumental in transforming the identity and ambitions of the region.”

Outcomes and impact – A better, greener West Midlands

The National Park for the West Midlands project arrives at a time where the region is going through immense change.

Mayor Andy Street, of the West Midlands Combined Authority, believes the park is evidence of these exciting developments.

“There’s a revival going on in the West Midlands,” he says. “With Coventry being crowned UK City of Culture for 2021 and the Commonwealth Games coming the following year, all eyes will be on the region.

“In line with this, we need to make a positive contribution to the environment. To that end, this project is so very important and I hope we can bring it to life.”

The National Park project provides the conceptual and spatial context for the case studies in the EIT Climate Kic funded project, SATURN being undertaken with Birmingham City Council and partners in Sweden and Italy.

In June 2020, the West Midlands Combined Authority formally adopted the National Park project as a key component of a post-COVID economic recovery.

National Park for West Midlands project

Looking to the future

The WMNP Lab, established in February 2019, will undertake further development and delivery of the work.

The WMNP Advisory group comprised of representatives from The Prince’s Trust, the Maria Nobrega Foundation, the National Trust and the Environment Agency.

The team are also set to secure seed funding from the WMCA to develop a three-year work programme, developing strategic recommendations and policies encouraging cross-boundary working. On 28 July 2020, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) signed a memoriandum of understanding with BCU, which formalised the Authority's support for the project as part of its post-covid green economic recovery. Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

Also giving support to the project are the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, as well as the International Federation of Landscape Architects, Landscape Institute, RSPB and IPOGEA. 

Kathryn believes the benefits of a fully-fledged West Midlands national park will transform the region.

“It will change the image of the West Midlands,” she says. “Putting quality of life and the environment at the top of the agenda will ensure the region becomes a far more desirable place to work, live and invest.”

Further information, including a full list of project partners and visual elements, can be found via the research hub’s centre pages.

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Kathryn Moore 2016

Kathryn Moore

Professor of Landscape Architecture

President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Kathryn has published extensively on design quality, theory, education and practice. Her book Overlooking the Visual: Demystifying the Art of Design (2010) provides the basis for critical, artistic discourse.

Her teaching, research and practice, set within landscape architecture have clear implications for architecture, planning, urban design and other art and design disciplines, in addition to philosophy, aesthetics and education more generally. Chair of the pilot High Speed 2 (HS2) landscape guidelines, she has taken a lead role in redefining the relationship between landscape, culture and governance, finance, health and community engagement within the context of the Birmingham region and is a member of the independent National HS2 Ltd Design Panel. 

Anastasia Nikologianni

Anastasia Nikologianni


Anastasia is inspired to conduct research in climate change and landscape architecture due to its collaboration opportunities, global potential and far-reaching impact. Part of the Critical Artistic Thinking in Design group, Anastasia and the team are working on a range of projects aimed at regenerating landscape and bringing economic benefits to the West Midlands region. Currently, they are collaborating with organisations such as UNESCO, IFLA, IPOEGEA, Natural ENGLAND, Environment Agency, Tame Valley Wetlands and more. Anastasia would welcome collaborations with any organisation that’s interested in spatial developments, business, community engagement, and art and design principles.

Image for Peter Larkham

Peter Larkham

Professor of Planning

Peter’s research focuses on urban change and conservation ranging from entire urban landscapes to individual sites and monuments.  He has worked on the new urban landscapes produced after the destruction of the Second World War, featuring several Midlands cities amongst others, and is now extending this work Europe-wide via several collaborative projects.

His collaborations with Kathryn and Anastasia focus on place character and identity, and how these are shaped by a wide range of agents and agencies of change.  New post-war landscapes are becoming older and some are evaluated in heritage and conservation terms; and the wider industrial landscape is also being reviewed. Old ideas such as garden cities can be re-imagined for current and future needs.

Peter is editor of the journal Urban Morphology, supervises many PhDs and teaches planning and urban design at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.