The Mayor of London’s consultation document, “LONDON INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 2050” states that “London is projected to reach over 11 million inhabitants by mid-century, a 37 per cent increase from 2011. Combined with a backlog of investment, an historically low level of capital investment in the UK compared with other countries, rising expectations and challenging climate change obligations, the demand for infrastructure is going to increase significantly as we enter this unprecedented era of growth.”
The report focuses one chapter on green infrastructure which sets out how the Mayor will champion a network of green infrastructure to provide flood protection, shade, biodiversity, cleaner air, a greener environment visually, pedestrian and cycling routes and space for recreation. It discusses how the GLA will deliver specific projects, develop the evidence base of the benefits of green infrastructure and service a dedicated ‘taskforce’ to investigate the future design and management of this infrastructure, including the options for its governance and funding.
“It is important Londoners have access to high-quality green spaces even as the city increases in density in the future. Simply to keep pace with the projected population increase, we will need to create the equivalent of an additional 9000 ha of accessible green space to meet existing standards.
Although the existing parks and green-space network has functioned well for the purposes of amenity and recreation, in future it should be better planned, designed and managed to deliver a range of additional benefits, including mitigating flooding, improving air quality, cooling the urban environment and enhancing biodiversity and ecological resilience.” LONDON INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 2050, Mayor of London.
Wild West End Project:
The ‘Wild West End’ project, the first city centre ecology project worldwide to be conceived and driven forward by an industry partnership, is supported by the Mayor of London, and the London Wildlife Trust, both of which will provide advice, promote the objectives of Wild West End and collaborate with the partners on their individual green infrastructure plans. Engineering consultancy Arup are providing technical advice and support to all the partners.
The first phase of Wild West End will see the creation of a green corridor across holdings in Regent Street and St James’s linking Regent’s Park and St James’s Park. The plans will see the creation of over a hectare of new green space across these world leading commercial destinations, equivalent to one and a third times the size of the football pitch at Wembley Stadium.
Other West End property businesses are working on their own master plans to expand the project even further. Ultimately, the Wild West End will create an extensive network of green stepping stones which form connections between the large areas of parkland which are already key natural features of the overall environment in the West End.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London said: “London’s population is at an all-time high, so while we need to build new homes and improve transport infrastructure, we also need better quality green spaces. There is absolutely no doubt that parks and green spaces in urban areas improve people’s wellbeing and quality of life. Through the Wild West End we look forward to transforming a part of the city for thousands of residents, workers and tourists to enjoy even more.”
James Cooksey, Head of Central London said: “With the trend towards urbanisation continuing across the world, it’s important for big property owners, businesses, government and charities to consider carefully their impact on plants, habitats and wildlife in major cities. That’s why we’ve launched the Wild West End. Along with our partners, we’re seeking to ensure that the millions of shoppers, workers and tourists that come to the West End’s densely packed urban environment each week, benefit from greater biodiversity by making space for the plants, birds and bees that form a crucial part of the ecosystem in London.”
Gordon Scorer, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a fabulous step to take. We need nature in the heart of our city, and in the heart of our lives no matter where we work, live or play. We welcome the Wild West End as a means to demonstrate how wildlife can flourish amidst the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and we are keen to play our part in realizing its ambitions.”
Research has shown that cities retain only 8 per cent of the native bird species and 25 per cent of the plant species of comparable undeveloped land. Set within the bustling urban environment of Regent Street and St James’s, this green corridor will integrate gardens at street level and on rooftops, as well as the installation of bird and bat boxes, beehives and green walls. The introduction of these green pockets amongst Regent Street and St James’s historic buildings will enliven the surrounding public spaces for visitors, and boost the range of habitats available in this part of central London so that wildlife can flourish alongside the millions of residents, workers and shoppers that visit the area each week.
It is also anticipated that Wild West End could have a positive impact on air quality in this part of the West End. The city of Chicago has estimated that investment in ‘greening’ only a small percentage of the city’s rooftops has significantly reduced air pollution. Converting 10 per cent of Chicago’s rooftops removed 17,400 mg of nitrogen dioxide each year, and Chicago estimates that this investment could result in avoided public health costs of approximately 17m to £65m annually. Clark. C et al., Green Roof Valuation: A Probabilistic Economic Analysis of Environmental Benefits, January 2012.
Information and text source: The Crown Estate/London Infrastructure Plan 2050: Consultation