Category: Uncategorized

Moravia Florece Para la Vida, Medellín, Colombia.

The Moravia Florece Para la Vida project in Medellín, Colombia – an area that used to be a rubbish dump is now the focus of an art corridor and newly formed community garden and public space. The expansion of the corridor of art and memory together with the construction of the second greenhouse are part of the intervention carried out by the Mayor of Medellín in this area of the northwest of the city, which for years was a rubbish dump.

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According to Gloria Alzate, Secretary of Environment, “The change in the environment must be accompanied by a social transformation, that is why we have accompanied the families in the transfer to other sites of the city and have strengthened social ties, as well as the creation of productive enterprises has been encouraged “.

The project, according to figures from the Ministry of the Environment, has benefited nearly 40,000 people who live in the neighborhood and its area of influence, since it has allowed the consolidation of small businesses, such as flower crops that are managed by women in the neighborhood. sector.

In the process, which began in 2013, there have been works of urban, landscape and environmental interventions in 35,000 square meters of the 72,000 corresponding to the old garbage dump of the city. In this space they have planted 3,600 square meters with 46 species of ornamental and floral plants.

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Among the works carried out is the extension of 265 meters of the Corridor of Art and Memory, composed of 300 linear meters in which the inhabitants portrayed stories, characters and images of the neighborhood.

The construction of the second 1,000-square-meter greenhouse with capacity for 40,000 plants was also completed, as well as the installation of 39 fences with historical photographs of the sector and 14 sculptures by artists from three universities in the city.

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This has been a social and economic process, but also cultural because we change mentalities with art,” said Alzate.

The story begins with internal violence in Medellin during the 1970’s and ‘80s. Conflict involving guerrilla groups, military groups, and drug cartels led to the displacement of a large number of people. Many had been living in impacted rural areas, and moved to Medellin seeking security and the opportunity for a better life.  These migrants began to build informal housing at the Moravia garbage dump, which eventually grew into the most densely populated community in Colombia.

Inhabitants survived through the recycling of the waste materials and the close transport links, like the old train station, but continued violence and an economic crisis only exacerbated the influx of migrants and high population density.During this time the sanitation and health standards of El Morro de Moravia were dire. In fact:

  • 30% of the structures were deemed dangerous,
  • 30% of the population were children, and
  • There was an average of 4.8 inhabitants per room.

In  1983 the dump was moved to prevent the landfill from defining the future development of the area.

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By 2006 Mayor Sergio Fajardo and Colombia’s Interior Ministry declared the situation in Morro de Moravia a “public disaster”.  A government initiative had begun to transform the community by this time, and the former garbage dump was to be converted into a public space.

First, residents of the dump were evicted and relocated to safe areas, then they began the process of decontaminating the mountain and converting into public gardens. Next came a series of small urban projects, new dwellings, and the opening of an educational and cultural building.

All projects employ residents of the neighborhood, so the transformation can be the pride of those who live there. One stand-out project was a series of greenhouses atop the old garbage hill that employed single mothers from the community.

The goal for the project is “Moravia florece para la vida”, or that Moravia should “blossom into life”. The result of government projects and work by locals seems to indicate that Moravia is indeed blossoming, quite literally. Today, locals have planted more than 50,000 plants of 47 species.

At Home with Nature: Encouraging biodiversity in new housing developments

The London Assembly’s  latest report, ‘At Home with Nature: Encouraging biodiversity in new housing developments’ published in Jan 2017, delivers the latest findings from the Housing Committee which scrutinises the Mayor’s role and record in delivering the private, social and affordable homes London needs.

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There is a risk that London will see its biodiversity being squeezed or reduced as planners and developers try to increase housing density in the city. Nature provides physical, mental, social, environmental and economic benefits for city dwellers, but both flora and fauna are rapidly decreasing in UK cities. The Mayor has an important role in ensuring biodiversity is enhanced and new habitats are created, as London attempts to tackle the housing crisis.

Biodiversity is part of national, regional and local planning policies. Collectively, these policies provide a good overall strategic vision for providing for nature in London. Unfortunately, these policies are not always translated at ground level.

Some European cities explicitly recognise the importance of green infrastructure and the environmental, social and economic benefits it provides. Several cities have introduced a planning tool called a ‘green factor’ or ‘green space factor’ (GSF) to ensure a minimum level of greenery in new developments. This planning tool has increased levels of green space and improved resilience to flooding and climate change impacts in these cities.

There are inconsistences at borough level when it comes to approving planning applications. This is due to lack of ecology expertise within planning departments and other pressures, for example housing target pressures, which can impact on the decisions of the authority. Funding cuts have reduced the capacity of planning departments.

Developers are sometimes uncertain of the steps needed to promote biodiversity and therefore the cost of doing so. The historic emphasis on protecting key species sometimes worries developers and mean some avoid biodiversity entirely. However, some developers clearly do value biodiversity on their sites and include biodiversity adaptations and green infrastructure where it is feasible. The inclusion of biodiversity and green infrastructure in a site has been shown to increase the chances of receiving planning permission with fewer conditions, positively affecting prices paid and speeding up the rate of sales.

This report explores the current situation and offers some potential solutions to ensure that London maintains and improves on its current levels of biodiversity, as it continues to grow and change.


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London is still one of the greenest cities in the world but, in the rush to tackle the housing crisis, there is a risk that opportunities to protect and enhance local flora and fauna are being lost. In order to build the homes that London needs, a large proportion of these homes will be built on brownfield land and at higher densities. An increased housing density could lead to a more fragmented environment for nature, reducing biodiversity and access to nature for Londoners.

Although nature provides physical, mental, social, environmental and economic benefits for urban dwellers, both flora and fauna are rapidly decreasing in UK cities. The 2016 State of Nature report showed that, in the UK, 56 per cent of species are in decline and 7 per cent of urban species are threatened with extinction. For example, London’s hedgehog population has dropped by 50 per cent since 2000. This is a further concern for London government as nature can also improve the city’s resilience to climate change and can help mitigate issues associated with high density living, such as flooding and the urban heat island effect, thereby generating financial savings in the long term.

The Mayor has an important role in ensuring biodiversity is enhanced and new habitats are created. A large proportion of new homes will be built on public land and will be subject to Mayoral planning approval if they are of potential strategic importance to London. This means that the Mayor can, and should, push for higher requirements for biodiversity on these sites in order for planning permission to be granted.


  • RSPB, 2016, The State of Nature
  • Written evidence from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • GLA, 2016, Mayoral planning powers

Kingston University Postgraduate Drop-in Evening, 8th March

Find out more about postgraduate study at Kingston University by attending one of our Postgraduate Drop-in events.

Our Postgraduate Drop-in Evenings are an excellent opportunity for you to talk to staff about postgraduate study at Kingston University.

Our next Postgraduate Drop-in Evenings take place between 5 – 7.00pm on Wednesday 8 March 2017. Book your place >

Learn about the 3 landscape based post-grad courses offered at Kingston University:

You will have the chance to:

  • have one-to-one conversations with academic staff to help you choose the course that is right for you;
  • ask any questions you may have on the application and enrolment process;
  • receive advice on finance, support services, careers and accommodation; and
  • view our learning facilities and resources.


London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory is a full inventory of London’s emissions, by source and locations for 2013.

The LAEI 2013 is the latest version of the London Atmospheric Emissions and includes estimates of key pollutants (NOx, PM10, PM2.5 and CO2) which are included for the base year 2013 and projected forward to 2020, 2025, and 2030. Emissions for previous years 2008 and 2010 are also provided, to allow comparison with previous versions of the LAEI. It covers the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London and the geographic area of greater London up to the M25 motorway which circumnavigates the capital. For full documentation and methodology click here 


LAEI map for Kingston-upon-Thames


LAEI map for central London – City of Westminster – areas of high atmospheric pollution along Euston Rd, Knightsbridge and Marble Arch areas.


The high levels of air pollution in Hillingdon and Hounslow are related to their location close to Heathrow Airport and its high levels of aviation related emissions

London Air Quality Network Summary Report 2014 was published in March 2016 by by Environmental Research Group at King’s College London. This report details the results of air pollution measurements made on the London Air Quality Network during 2014 providing robust air pollution measurements that are essential to underpin air quality management and health studies. The key points of the report;

Carbon Monoxide – Large reductions in CO over last 20 years with the introduction of catalytic converters

Nitrogen Dioxide – 39 of 67 sites did not achieve the annual mean objective with 8 sites recorded an annual mean of twice the legal limit or above.  Three sites measured more than 1000 hours with mean NO2 greater than 200 µgm-3. The main source of NO2 in London is traffic emissions.

Ozone – 3 sites in urban background locations did not achieve the objective. Ozone is a regional pollutant which is greater away from busy roads.

Sulphur Dioxide – The WHO Guidelines (WHO, 2006) recommended a significant reduction in the maximum daily mean concentration from the current 125 μgm -3 to an eventual 20 μgm -3 . Only one of the 10 sites met this target in 2014.

Particulate Matter PM10 – All 47 sites met the annual mean AQS objective of 40 µgm-3 for PM10. (One site did not meet the daily mean objective of no more than 35 days with a daily mean greater than or equal to 50 μgm -3 . This single site measured 55 days with a mean concentration greater than 50 μgm -3 .)

London – Air quality overview

London suffers from traffic related pollution in a similar way to most UK cities, but the sheer size of the city, along with a dense road network and high buildings, means that central London tends to be one of the most polluted places in the UK. It is currently the main area failing to comply with the legally binding limits set by the EU. Pollution can build up in London when it becomes trapped between buildings,or in the local area more generally, especially during still weather.

Ozone pollution in spring and summer can also be a problem, but normally in London suburbs rather than the centre, and the highest levels in the UK are found in rural areas. Ozone is often higher in the south-east compared with the rest of the UK.

Within Europe London is the largest city, but we have less pollution than some EU cities because we are on the western edge of the continent and often receive fresh air from the Atlantic. From a global perspective, research from the World Bank shows that air pollution is a major health hazard in developing countries. If we rank the 3,226 cities with a population greater than 100,000 according to their pollution levels, from high to low, London comes 2,516th.

Public parks – Communities & Local Government Committee Report


House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Committee have just published their report, ‘Public parks’, looking at 3 key questions: why parks matter, what challenges are facing the parks sector, and how to secure a sustainable future for parks. 

The Committee acknowledges the benefits offered by the UK’s parks and green spaces –

“…. treasured assets and are often central to the lives of their communities. They provide opportunities for leisure, relaxation and exercise, but are also fundamental to community cohesion, physical and mental health and wellbeing, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and local economic growth. These benefits have long been recognised, but within a context of budget reductions and tightening financial circumstances it is increasingly important that we find ways to quantify the wider value of parks in order to access new sources of funding and target investment in areas of greatest impact.” 

The report then defines some of the challenges faced –

” As shared community assets, they must serve many different purposes, and be able to respond to the different and sometimes clashing needs of local communities. They must compete with other services for investment to secure their short and long term sustainability. Distribution of parks is unequal across the country, with many deprived communities struggling to access the benefits which green spaces can provide. Planning policy, particularly as a result of pressures to increase housing supply, may not always give enough priority to parks and green spaces, or to other elements of our green infrastructure.”

The Committee notes that contribution played by local communities through friends’ organisations, volunteers, or other community groups – welcoming the contributions such groups make, and that the time and efforts given to their local parks should not be overlooked; but they cannot be solely responsibility for resolving the challenges parks face. They recognise that innovation in management models and funding sources are required for the sustainable future funding of parks. The report contains evidence from a wide range of contributors who described alternative funding sources and management models, and the Committee urge the Minister, the Local Government Association, and local authorities to consider these.

The report welcomes Andrew Percy MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s commitment to establishing a cross-departmental group to coordinate and lead at a national level .The Committee call on the Minister, “To set out the details of how this group will operate, and how it will work with stakeholders from across the parks sector to deliver a sustainable future for our parks and green spaces.”

Andrew Percy MP – in his evidence:

“I am keen to bring people together across Government and across the sector, in order to share best practice and to consider the recommendations of this Committee. I want to look at the alternatives to a statutory duty. Neither of those things has happened up to now. [ … ] I want to be that champion across Government and bring Government Departments together. [ … ] I am keen to collect and receive the examples of best practice and make sure that we spread them across the network.”

The Committee considered calls for a statutory duty on local authorities to provide and maintain parks and recognises that reductions in local authority budgets may disproportionately disadvantage discretionary services, such as parks. However, they decided that such a statutory duty, which could be burdensome and complex, would achieve the outcomes intended. The Committee recommend that:

“The Minister publishes guidance to local authorities that they work collaboratively with Health and Wellbeing Boards to prepare and publish joint parks and green space strategies that  articulate the contribution of parks to wider local authority objectives, and set out how parks will be managed to maximise such contributions.”

The Committee acknowledges that, “Parks and green spaces matter“, by contributing to important strategic objectives, such as climate change mitigation, public health and community integration. However failure to match their value and the contribution they make with the resources they need to be sustained could have severe consequences. The Committee intends to return to the issue of parks before the end of this Parliament to assess what progress has been made whilst calling on those who care about parks to maintain momentum, to continue to hold local and national government to account, and to carry on their work to support, promote and enhance our parks and green spaces.

Orto fra i cortili //retrofitted rooftop growing space

Orto fra i cortili – ” garden among the courtyards” – creating a system that if repeated on a large scale can assist with retrofitting roof top spaces that are not being used.

Central to this concept is the creation of a modular system that uses pallets which can be easily assembled to build structures that combine aesthetics and functionality, at a reasonable cost.The pallets are used both as decking that when overturned become containers for the soil. In this way, using a single modular element a planting layout is constructed. The open-air pharmacy provides for the planting of medicinal plants with the aim of rediscovering the medical and therapeutic properties of wood used for centuries in pharmaceutical plants.
The Garden of the courtyards is many things in one: an energy upgrade project for the building, landscaping, decorative tool, food self-production, new representative space, sociability and co- working for those who work in the building. Plants create an ecosystem that promotes biodiversity, reduces the food supply chain and guarantees the authenticity of products. The layer of vegetation improves insulation and increases the thermal inertia of the rooms below. The pallet system also allows a stormwater control, reducing the flow of the waste water entering the natural system.
The system integrates a structural consolidation of the building aimed at increasing the load per square meter. The existing structure has been reinforced through the use of beams for structural reinforcement in fiberglass. The use of a fiberglass structure make the structural reinforcement systems that is resistant and light, easy to assemble, resistant to atmospheric agents and totally recyclable.
In collaboration with: Cornelius Gavril (design of the green area) and VerdeVivo (organic curative fertilizer, seed and preparations for gardening), Vivai Mandelli (design and installation of the modules), PCR srl (fiberglass structural reinforcement beams), Sice Previt (structure), Battaglia Contractor, Marazzi, Manuel Coltri – Marmi Due Ci, Colleoni Roberto & C. srl, Amea.
© Daniele Cavadini, Matteo Carassale

London’s River Water Quality – Thames Vision Framework

London’s River Water Quality

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims for ‘good status’ for all rivers (and other water bodies) measured in terms of their chemical, biological and physical condition and quality. Of the river water bodies in London, two are ‘bad’, eight are ‘poor’ and the rest are ‘moderate’. The primary reasons for the failure of London’s rivers to meet WFD standards are: diffuse pollution from road run-off, foul water misconnections to the surface water drainage system, and point source pollution from treatment works. The physical modification of many of London’s rivers by culverting, canalisation, etc. also contributes to the failure to meet ‘potential good’ status under the WFD framework.

 The Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision is the framework for the development of the tidal Thames between now and 2035. The Vision covers goals for growth and actions to deliver these goals. This document covers the context for the Vision today, the goals and priority actions, the governance framework and how progress will be reported. You’ll note that the Port of London Authority (PLA) support the development of the Thames Tideway Tunnel but make no comment on the role of green infrastructure and the benefits to the Thames that can be realised.


Environment – Improved tidal Thames environment

The tidal Thames provides a range of diverse, thriving habitats for many different species of fish, birds, seals and other wildlife. It is home to nine Sites of Special Scientific Interest, mainly inter-tidal habitats. Many of these have further international environmental designations such as RAMSAR Convention wetland sites or European designations such as Special Protection Areas or Special Areas of Conservation. The whole of the tidal Thames in Greater London is identified as a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, and a number of other Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation lie alongside the river within Greater London (such as Rainham and Wennington Marshes, Erith Marshes, Battersea Park, Barn Elms and Kew Gardens).

There are also a number of sites of borough or local importance, including Blackwall Basin, Leg of Mutton Reservoir, Petersham Meadows and Marble Hill Park, as well as most of the tributaries as they meet the Thames. The Thames plays a crucial role in the importance of these adjacent sites, and they provide additional habitats for some species that use the Thames (e.g. foraging and roosting areas for many birds).

92% of the Port of London Authority (PLA) area is covered by environmental designations of some sort. The latest surveys found over 900 seals and visits from 300,000 overwintering birds every year. Against these positives, there are a number of major challenges to the Thames environment. The PLA-led Cleaner Thames campaign highlights one. Up to 300 tonnes of rubbish is recovered from the Thames each year, with the amount of plastic bottles growing year on year. A study by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum has shown that up to 70% of bottom feeding fish in the Thames has plastic fibres in their guts, which can then get into the human food chain.

There are more than 50 major discharges of untreated sewage into the tidal Thames each year as a result of the inadequate capacity of the Victorian infrastructure. Despite Bazalgette’s foresight in building a sewerage system that could meet the demands of a much bigger London nearly 150 years on, the system no longer has sufficient capacity.


The Thames Tideway Tunnel will make the river through central London the cleanest it has been since the Industrial Revolution. With more consistent, higher water quality will come more biodiversity. There are already 125 fish species feeding on the abundant invertebrates in the river. The waste water treatment improvements to discharges into the Thames that are being provided by investments by Tideway, Thames Water and other operators provide a great platform for cleaner water and a more sustainable river.

The Thames already has a number of environmental improvement projects like the Nature Improvement Area, Catchment Plans and Futurescape, led by an increasing number of nonprofit organisations and charities such as the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Thames21 and Thames Estuary Partnership. Projects are driven and resourced by enthusiastic volunteers up and down the Thames.

As well as a focus on improving the environment, the Vision includes aims to reduce the overall environmental impact of activities on the river. This means compliance with current rules, for example those set by Maritime and Coastguard Agency but also looking to best practice from across the world to encourage innovation and the adoption of new technologies to reduce the impact further, such as on air pollution.

The Environment Agency’s Thames Estuary 2100 programme will be providing improved flood defences across the Estuary to protect the increasing population from the growing risk of flooding due to the effects of climate change. During these works, flood defences will need to be repaired and raised. Changes are expected in the frequency of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

Vision, 2035

The 20 year Vision will see the river the cleanest since the Industrial Revolution, with improved habitats.

To achieve this goal in a safe and sustainable way, the following priority actions have been set:

  • Build and bring into operation the Thames Tideway Tunnel, by 2021. The completion of this project, extending from Acton in the west to Abbey Mills in the east, together with the Lea Tunnel and the substantial investments in capacity at Thames Water’s existing sewage treatment works, will dramatically reduce both the number and total volume of sewage discharges into the Thames and its tidal tributaries. Cumulatively, this will act as the largest improvement in the water quality of the River Thames within London in a generation
  • Improve water quality by a range of measures including reduced litter in the river. As well as through delivery of the tunnel, this will be achieved by parties working on improvements and best practice through the Tidal Thames Catchment Plan and the Wider Thames River Basin Management Plan. Coordinated action is also required to secure effective management of invasive non-native species (INNS). We also want to see a reduction in litter falling into the river, which is being targeted through the awareness building ‘Cleaner Thames’ campaign that is focusing on plastic rubbish. The Thames Vision can widen the awareness of the campaign, drawing in other Vision stakeholders such as leisure users to reduce or give up single use plastic or dispose of them responsibly. The PLA has consulted on changes to the Thames Byelaws to ensure Class V passenger vessels do not discharge sewage into the Thames from 2023
  • Improve biodiversity of sites recognised for their wildlife interest, and the connections between them. The nine SSSIs along the tidal River Thames are all within the PLA’s jurisdiction. A priority is to get the SSSI sites into ‘favourable condition’, where practicable, so they support more wildlife. The condition of the sites will benefit from more connectivity of habitats across the Thames, for example by looking at new stepping stone sites and managing a group of sites in a coherent way. It is also beneficial to continue to encourage communities to identify with local reserves and sites to protect and improve the access by wildlife, in land-based and marine ecosystems.
  • Encourage uptake of new and green technologies to reduce the port’s environmental impact. With a focus in the first instance on air pollution, we will learn from best practice from across the world to reduce diesel emissions from all commercial vessels that use the river. With an Ultra Low Emission Zone being introduced in Central London from September 2020 – applying to all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) – river transport will play its part too to reduce exhaust emissions. Whilst the standards for vessels are set by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), there is a role for the PLA in exploring how to encourage the move to greener vessels without steering trade away from the Thames. There are other opportunities, such as harnessing the energy source of the Thames that we could also explore. Water source heat pumps are already beginning to take advantage of this (e.g. at Kingston Heights on the non-tidal Thames).


Improving flood management using more natural processes.

One of 5 key aspirations of the London Rivers Action Plan (2009) which was developed to highlight opportunities and provide practical guidance to local authorities, developers, Non-Government Organisations, community groups and stakeholders was to improve flood management using more natural processes. The London Rivers Action Plan was supported by, the then Mayor for London, Boris Johnson, Environment Agency, Natural England, Thames Rivers Restoration Trust and others.  Benefits to integrating green infrastructure into planning are listed as:

  • Flood protection has been improved by working with natural river processes;
  • The combination of the new open river, together with the old culverts, enables the regulation of flows for a range of environmental conditions associated with climate change impacts;
  • Provision of a diversity of wildlife habitats able to support a range of species and a much needed backwater area;
  • Improved community access to nature and an enhanced recreational facility.