About our research into land regeneration and urban greening


China clay spoil tip before restoration
A china clay spoil tip in South West England before….

China clay spoil tip after restoration
…. and after restoration

Forest Research have been conducting research and providing technical advice on establishing greenspace on brownfield, degraded and contaminated land for over 40 years. Our work, and the work of others, has shown that greenspace can successfully be established to provide a wide range of socio-economic, health and environmental benefits. There are, however, many challenges in designing and implementing solutions for sustainable greenspace development specifically with regards to:

  • Site investigation
  • Contamination
  • Soil and water resource management
  • Achieving integrated remedial solutions.

Our research is designed specifically to address these issues in a robust systematic way in collaboration with industry based, government and research organisations.

Our key objective is to conduct cutting-edge research that can be disseminated as best practice guidance to stakeholders involved in restoration and greenspace creation on brownfield and contaminated land.

Research programmes, related topics, products and services, forthcoming events and contact information


Sustainable development emphasises the need to consider social, economic and environmental concerns in greenspace establishment. ‘Open space’, including unrestored brownfield, has inherent multifunctionality and associated value. Such value can be considered to consist of environmental, ecological and social elements.

In contrast to greenfield sites, brownfield sites also notoriously have liabilities which may be:

  • Chemical (e.g. contamination)
  • Physical (e.g. compaction)
  • Ecological (e.g. invasive species)
  • Social (e.g. dereliction).

Successful restoration requires that site value and liabilities are fully ascertained and understood prior to remediation. 

Different individuals, groups and organisations within society have diverse needs and expectations of urban greenspace.  Increasingly, they also expect to have an opportunity to contribute to the decision making process. Research into People, trees and woodlands therefore seeks to engage with people to understand the current and potential contribution of urban greenspace to contemporary society.

Research objectives

Research in this area aims to develop and disseminate understanding to achieve the sustainable development of urban greenspace from brownfield and contaminated land.  It falls into a number of inter-related themes:

  • Achieving the sustainable development of greenspace
  • Social, economic and environmental benefits of greening
  • The role of vegetation in remediation
  • Cost effective remediation and restoration for greenspace creation
  • Prioritising site development
  • Evaluating the role of greenspace in sustainable development.

Research programmes

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry Commission logo
The Forestry Commission is committed to helping deliver sustainable socio-economic and environmental regeneration of derelict land in urban and peri-urban areas.  It seeks to deliver these benefits through Sustainable Forest Management policies and practices.

Our research develops understanding which helps to guide the development of sustainable forestry policies and practices and supports the Forestry Commission.

Funders and partners

Land regeneration and urban greening research programmes are being supported by: