The Crown Estate is working to establish a green corridor in London’s West End, connecting two major parks; Regent’s Park and St James’s Park. The ecology project entitled, ‘Wild West End’ is adopting an innovative, Estate-wide approach. The Ecology Masterplan has been prepared by Arup to guide the installation of contextually valuable green infrastructure (GI) throughout The Crown Estate’s London portfolio. This will provide valuable habitats for wildlife on and around the buildings, and improve the experience for people who live, work and visit the area. In adopting the Masterplan, this has enabled The Crown Estate to take a long-term approach to ensuring the integration of GI within new developments, existing assets and the public realm.
- Location: West End, London
- Type of Project: Establishment of an Estate-wide Ecology Masterplan
- Strategic Advisors: Arup
Whilst the development of the Masterplan began with the objective of enhancing ecology and biodiversity, the importance of the additional direct and indirect benefits to the local environment and health and wellbeing of tenants and visitors has also been recognised by The Crown Estate. These benefits include improved air quality and odour, reduced heat island effect, increased stormwater retention and a more visually attractive environment. It also creates engagement opportunities, and potentially leads to increased dwell time for visitors and attraction and retention of tenants, contributing to the value of the portfolio.
Measurement and monitoring
A key aspect of the Masterplan approach is the use of target-setting and measurement to guide implementation and monitor its success. In order to measure the establishment of a green corridor, a corridor has been defined as an area of significant green space (100m2 or greater) with a maximum separation of 100 metres. Key Performance Indicators have been set for establishment of a total area of green space, and observation of increases in species type and number over a defined period of time.
Monitoring will track the success of the implementation in terms of its benefits to biodiversity, the local environment and health and wellbeing. Baseline bird and bat surveys have been undertaken, identifying the species currently present within and adjacent to the Masterplan area. Sightings were recorded of many different bird species. Recordings were also made of several bat species using bat detectors. Surveys will be repeated at regular intervals. Opportunities exist to engage with local universities to support and extend the learning from the monitoring process. At a project specific level, the intention is to monitor roof and air temperatures and stormwater retention associated with green roofs. The Crown Estate also intends to measure the benefit via tenant satisfaction surveys, impacts on voids, turnover and rental prices.
The Crown Estate is now extending the benefits of this strategic approach throughout the West End, looking to create a partnership with neighbouring property owners. This will broaden the intended biodiversity benefit, contribute to the value of the local area, encourage knowledge sharing and broaden engagement opportunities.
Consultation is ongoing with key stakeholders, enabling the approach to be aligned with local and regional initiatives. Those consulted include Westminster City Council, Greater London Authority, Transport for London, London Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Cross River Partnership, West End Partnership and Royal Parks, as well as surrounding landowners, with positive feedback received from all parties.
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.” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
The project, the first city centre ecology project worldwide to be conceived and driven forward by an industry partnership of this sort, is also being supported by the Mayor of London, and the London Wildlife Trust, both of which have agreed to provide advice, promote the objectives of Wild West End and collaborate with the partners on their individual green infrastructure plans going forward.
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, The Crown Estate’s 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. In Chicago, introducing green roofs across 10 per cent of the buildings in the city removed 17,400 mg of nitrogen dioxide each year. Improved air quality has clear health benefits. One piece of research suggests that asthma rates among children aged four to five falls by a quarter for every additional 343 trees per square km, as they help keep the air clean and breathable. These benefits have a knock-on effect in terms of public health spending and Chicago estimates that its investment in green roofs could save somewhere between £17m and £65m in public health costs annually.
This case study features in the UK Green Building Council’s report ‘Demystifying Green Infrastructure’