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Austerity and the Green City Initiative in Oldham

February 2019: Initiatives such as the Green City Region Initiative in Greater Manchester are demonstrating that sustainable development plans can support the transformation of deprived regions. They aim to develop an integrated approach that simultaneously combats economic, social, and environmental challenges at the local level.


UK regions are turning towards local plans to combat their environmental impact and create greener spaces. One example is Greater Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham who launched a campaign to transform the region into a carbon neutral green area by 2038. Under the Green City Region Initiative, towns such as Oldham initiated concepts to transform their natural capital into eco-tourism centres for birdwatching, develop a borough-wide green brand as an exemplar Green City on energy, carbon, water, and green infrastructure that initiates a social movement. Their wide-ranging projects reflect elements of a ‘Green New Deal’ and demonstrate an integrated approach to environmental, health and social problems in deprived areas. Their objectives include the delivery of a sustainable economy with cutting-edge environmental technologies, tackling fuel poverty and generating training and employment opportunities for the local workforce.

Implications & Opportunities

Projects such as Oldham’s Northern Roots initiative serve as proof of concept that deprived areas can re-brand and transform themselves into sustainable green spaces that focus on the community’s assets and look for ways to protect, enhance, and leverage their value beyond short-term economic assessments. It exemplifies that sustainable development plans can be responses to the pressure of austerity on local authority budgets that will help to fill the gap left by the retreat of the state as well as addressing a plethora or environmental, economic, and social challenges. Further, such projects can be starting point to develop wider networks and initiate similar transformation in surrounding regions.


Despite initiatives such as the Green City Region Initiative offering tremendous potential for local communities and economies, they require initial capital investments and depend on the collaboration of local governments, the acceptance within local communities, and the development of a public profile.


Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation. (2019). Greater Manchester Green Summit. Retrieved from

Northern Roots. (2019). What We Do. Retrieved from

Green Growth. (2018). Greater Manchester Unveils New Green City Vision. Retrieved from

While, A., Jonas, A. E. G., & Gibbs, D. (2010). From sustainable development to carbon control: eco-state restructuring and the politics of urban and regional development. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(1), 76–93. doi:10.1111/j.1475-5661.2009.00362.x 

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.