#WEARE10 – Celebrating 10 years of Urban Green

  • 16 Jan 2024

Martin King, Managing Director reflects on his journey as Urban Green turns 10! We look forward to celebrating with our team, clients and friends.

So, you set off on a new adventure and who knew…… here we are 10 years on! It’s a decade since I made a key life decision in joining Urban Green and I’m writing to acknowledge and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the business in its current format. It’s been an adventure, some highs, lows and lessons learnt along the way. But today we are a great team of 25 strong, an ever-growing reputation, diverse and interesting range of projects and a solid, reliable client base.

I had spent the previous 11 years in a corporate plc and had some great and diverse experiences. It took me in different directions, but I needed a change – I had lost direction, I took a risk, went back to my roots in design and joined up with 2 guys at the start of a journey. There was potential and a platform to hopefully build from, it began ….. it didn’t always follow a straight path, but situations were worked through and Urban Green grew quickly and positively in the first few years. We added staff and services, we moved offices 3 times across the city as we expanded (I do really like our studio at DEVA City Office Park in the listed former brewery building, it’s feels like the right base camp for our team). There was always a plan, but it always felt like it happened quickly.

Base Camp - Cook Street Brewery


I have always had the attitude you are only as good as the team around you and believed in the importance of establishing the right culture and environment, presenting people the opportunity and experiences to enable them to grow. Recruitment as ever is key, it hasn’t always worked of course, and you constantly need to look at the reasons and yourself in that scenario. We’ve had some great people who have taken the experience, moved on and flourished, some just weren’t the right fit and that’s a two-way street. We currently have an enthusiastic and capable team, which bodes well and gives me confidence for the future.


We have always prided ourselves on being responsive and proactive, sometimes too much so, adding pressure sometimes to an already busy workload. Sometimes early on, we felt we were punching above our weight alongside larger, more established practices, gaining places on frameworks and winning work. Some of the clients we had at the outset we still have today – Story Homes, whom we’ve shared a journey with as example, personnel have changed but opportunities and projects have remained consistent. Repeat business has been at the core of the 10-year evolution, which again we also pride ourselves on, you’ve got to constantly work at maintaining relationships.

Starter for 10 - Leisure Lakes

Projects and Services

There’s always been a real variety of projects – large and small, normal and sometimes a little ‘out there’! But we seem to have built a reputation for problem solving / troubleshooting, the art of the possible….. I still get a buzz off those calls ‘Martin, I’ve got this… what do you think?’ Which of course can have its downsides – mainly that it takes time and effort to create and deliver the right solutions and get them over the line!! (I am not going to spend overly long bemoaning the planning system as its broken!). I have worked on Leisure Lakes up in West Lancashire for example, throughout the 10 years on and off – a great project with a lovely and characterful client. Tame Valley Park in Stalybridge for over 6 years with longstanding client Casey, a really complex and challenging site in the Green Belt – it will get consent this year!! There are too many to mention that Urban Green can be really proud of, Crimble Mill in Heywood securing planning consent in 2023, which has been a journey is a recent example! Watch out for that one in the news as it progresses on site.

We have key projects such as Lancashire County Cricket Club’s new facility in South Ribble with Eric Wright Group and The Citadels, a new campus for the University of Cumbria in Carlisle city centre with DAY Architectural Ltd that can attract the headlines for an ever-ambitious landscape architecture team. We have evolved and established as urban designers / masterplanners working on several key strategic sites within Places for Everyone.

Citadels, Carlisle - the future

Landscape planning remains a core offer with established clients and key projects, TVIA’s always providing some headlines such as the now built Manchester Energy Centre with the Tonkin Lui tower adjacent Manchester Central and currently the proposed replacement of Albert Bridge House with a 45-storey tower on the River Irwell.

Ecology services are in high demand as ever with survey season on the horizon. It looks like one of the most diverse at present in terms of the range of protected species surveys on the books!

We are positioned at the forefront of Biodiversity Net Gain, with the team having carried out over 30 CPDs for clients and colleagues over the last 12 months. they have recently undertaken a pilot scheme for the DfE across several school sites, so again watch this space.

Our arboriculture team are always sought after for planning work, alongside our expansive health and safety (VTA) work for asset owners having delivered for local authorities and many registered providers across the region, currently ongoing with Southway Housing Trust and having just commenced with Wythenshawe Community Housing Group.

The GIS team is an integral component for delivery across our teams and has huge potential to develop further and grow!

We have come some way from three guys in a room at Peter House on Oxford Road!


We remain in a really positive position, building on everything over those 10 years in an ever-challenging world, no-one could have predicted the last 3 years! Within which, and whatever the politics – planning, design and environmental matters are ever increasing and will remain in high demand. You need a plan, but the ability to be agile and flexible is paramount, making well informed and timely decisions has been key to where we are today and will remain so. I continue to be positive about the future in an evolving and challenging environment.

Along the way I spent 9 of those years on the Group board at The Calico Group, a fantastic organisation for social profit, delivering services to the most vulnerable in society. Great people, culture and values, an experience that I have learnt so much from and one which I will always cherish.

A long innings - LCCC new facility at Farington


I can only thank the current team, along with those who have worked with us and for us along the way, as well as the clients we have built relationships and delivered projects with. We are planning some celebrations, including a full teambuilding day out at the end of May in Rivington (and a trip to the brewery hopefully!). A client, friends and team celebration event is organised for late February in the city and I look forward to catching up with some familiar faces, somewhat greyer and hopefully a little wiser!

So, on reflection…. Its’ not easy running your own business – it takes hard work, a great team, good clients, interesting projects, along with good luck, judgement, planning, decision making and some of the old blood, sweat and tears. Would I, should I have done things differently? Probably some things, but overall I wouldn’t change it…..

Note to self: Keep learning and enjoying, stay positive and enthusiastic – onwards and upwards as they say!

Start of career journey.......... circa'97

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