Following our blog published on 2nd September 2021, GreenBlue Urban was privileged to be on the panel of landscape professionals at Futurescape two weeks ago. This panel discussed the potentials of supermarket car parks for urban greening, biodiversity and stormwater management.

Hosted by Rachael Forsyth of Eljays44 – the organiser of Futurescape, the panellists Adam Dunnett of Hillier Trees, Ken White of Frosts Landscape Construction, Richard Sabin of Biotecture, Richard Burton of ideverde and our own Howard Gray, considered the barriers to tree planting, and the opportunities that exist.

There is no doubt that there is a belief that trees in car parks are a liability, and increase maintenance costs. Whilst no tree is fully maintenance-free, well-planted trees in well-designed tree pits are very low maintenance. Annual visual inspections minimise liabilities, and it is estimated that such trees should cost no more than £15 per year to care for properly.

Haskins Garden Centre, Crawley – RootSpace Installation

Another factor is that car parking spaces in these supermarkets are valuable – each space has to contribute towards the store’s profitability, and therefore to sacrifice such space goes against the grain. However, we need to understand value rather than just cost. By using the GreenBlue RootSpace soil cell solution, the rooting system can flourish below the parking space, only needing a small area for the trunk to appear through.

It has been calculated that customers will spend up to 40% more time in a retail environment

when there are mature trees in and around the stores, and that premium prices can be charged in such areas – up to 9% more for a cup of coffee, for example. Such places are less stressful, more biodiverse, have cleaner air, have reduced noise, are cooler in the summer and are generally a pleasure to be.

In this time of increased internet shopping, retailers are looking for ways to entice their customers to their stores. Rather than just planting trees because the planning system requires it – what we call cynical tokenism – why not encourage the supermarkets to invest in improving the green infrastructure in the car parks? Many stores now have to invest in Sustainable Drainage Systems which slow down stormwater runoff, and this can be simply done using trees and rain gardens, such as the GreenBlue Urban Arborflow and HydroPlanter solutions. When we combine the green and blue elements of design, we get better green infrastructure, better stormwater management and save money!

HydroPlanter modular rain garden installation. Newmarket, Grosvenor Road Car Park.

Another option mentioned was to incorporate electric vehicle charging stations within our car park renovations. Many supermarkets are already providing this service to their customers, but whilst civil engineering works are being carried out, with excavation for cables, why not include some green space. It was noted that some supermarkets have invested in green walls to their car parks and stores, which also massively increases attractiveness and biodiversity, and these opportunities must not be missed.

EV Charging & tree pits. ArborCharge.

It must be recognised that poor planting is actually a dis-benefit. Poorly planned and maintained trees discourage customers to shop there, so it must be planned properly, installed well and maintained regularly if the full range of benefits is to be realised for all – both the shoppers and the supermarkets.

In support of national tree week, we encourage everyone to sign the petition HERE today to make a change, toward a better greener future.