Reconnecting Nottingham with the river through brownfield regeneration

For generations, Nottingham has depended and thrived on the steady flow of the River Trent, cutting a path through the city and most notably what is known as the ‘Waterside’ – an area of the city that is currently experiencing extensive regeneration. Led by an innovative sustainable development scheme by Blueprint and Willmott Dixon, Nottingham’s riverscape is being transformed.

Powering Nottingham’s economy

Used for transporting international cargo from the harbour in Hull, the River Trent unlocked trade and distribution opportunities to cities in the southern areas of the UK. For centuries, the River Trent was regarded as a life source for Nottingham’s business and manufacturing community with this being the case up to as little as 50 years ago. Rather than cargo boats and tugboats, Britain’s businesses now rely primarily on planes, trains and automobiles to transport goods around the UK and the rest of the world. Because of this shift, the sounds from the hustle and bustle of Nottingham’s Waterside area was reduced to the gentle flow of the river as it ran its course towards the East Coast.

For more than 20 years, the Waterside – encompassing the area to the south of the city stretching from Trent Bridge to Colwick Park – was left underdeveloped; several projects promised to revitalise the brownfield site in the early 2000s, but never came to fruition. This was until 2011 when regeneration specialists Blueprint, a joint venture between Nottingham City Council and PfP Capital, began plans for the proposed Trent Basin residential development which would eventually comprise of 450 low energy homes and apartments designed around community spaces and delivered over multiple phases.

“It’s a classic regeneration challenge,” says Nick Ebbs, chief executive of Blueprint, speaking of the Waterside. “A former industrial landscape and a major inland port, which fell into dereliction several decades ago, with a lot of empty land and buildings.”

Sustainable living for a new community

Designed to reconnect the city with the river, the Trent Basin development sits on the north bank of the River Trent. The Trent Lane Depot – a historic inland dock that serves as a reminder of the area’s importance when it came to distributing goods across the Midlands – will still be found at the centre of the development. However, what is very much the heart of the project is the alignment of thinking between Willmott Dixon, appointed contractor to deliver phases one and two of the scheme, and Blueprint, regarding the values of sustainable, eco-conscious living for future generations in Nottingham.

Phase one provided 45 low-energy family homes when completed in spring 2016 with a further 31 homes set for phase two. When complete in 2019, this second phase will include a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses along with two-bedroom mews homes, ranging from £200,000 up to £500,000.

Nick Gibb, deputy managing director for Willmott Dixon, said,

“This was an exciting project for Willmott Dixon and we were extremely pleased to be involved in such an iconic and transformative development, which will raise the benchmark for future residential developments in the city.

“What was clear about this project on all sides was the commitment to delivery beyond standard building regulations and we collectively set very stringent targets, which are independently certified by a quality monitor, to ensure success. Our expertise in brownfield construction means that we were ideally placed to deliver the ambition set forward by Blueprint and to achieve the team’s high expectations for the development.”

Shaping the future for Nottingham’s next generation

In addition to offering high-quality homes to families in and around Nottingham, as part of its commitment to support hundreds of young people take up a career in construction each year, Willmott Dixon has been working in partnership with Nottingham City Council to deliver its ‘Young People in Construction’ programme through the Trent Basin project.

“Our reputation and quality of our work relates directly to the abilities of our people, which is why we invest so heavily in our training and learning and development opportunities,” said Nick Gibb. “We intend to take 50 young people classed as NEET (not in education, employment or training) through a 12-week construction traineeship programme to support the next generation into work.”

Delivered four days a week, the first four weeks of the programme is college-based where students will complete training in modules including functional skills, health and safety in a construction environment, CSCS (construction skills certification scheme) training, and test and employability skills.

Following completion of this theory, students get eight weeks trade work experience on site and are continually assessed for attitude, attendance, punctuality as well as completion of course work by the college.

Nick Gibb added:

“We are very proud to be able to support the development of skills for young people not just in Nottingham, but also across the region, and the work we are doing at the Trent Basin allows us to do exactly that.

“There is a very real skills gap in the construction industry and by undertaking these important programmes with schools and universities, we are helping to build the foundations for the industry of tomorrow.”

Creating a catalyst for regeneration

Beyond Trent Basin, there is a united drive within both the public and private sector to bring Nottingham’s waterways back into public access, with future residential and commercial schemes in the pipeline for this area of the city.

“We firmly believe that Trent Basin was the spark that lit the flame for the wider regeneration of the Waterside area,” said Nick Ebbs. “Others have now seen the success the scheme has achieved and how we have been able to unlock the potential of this brownfield site, repurposing it for the greater good, which has created somewhat of a ripple effect.

“Between 2001 and 2011, the population of Nottinghamshire grew by 37,300 to 785,800 with the number of households also increasing by 6.5%. Looking ahead to 2021 – and beyond – in order to support this exponential regional growth, both in terms of economic and social, providing sustainable, high-quality housing could prove to be pivotal in ensuring a strong and stable foundation for Nottingham’s future.”