Green spaces matter
Dr Phil Askew, our Director of Landscaping and Placemaking explains the importance of investing in landscapes.
Green spaces are good for us all. Managed well, they have the power to help people and nature to thrive – whether we’re talking about open countryside or formal parks, town squares or playgrounds, communal gardens or urban courtyards.
Recently I’ve been working alongside planners, designers, developers and house builders with Fields in Trust – a charity who champion and supporting parks and green spaces for everyone to enjoy. Together we’ve been considering how we can ensure, through clear insights and guidance, that the built environment sector raises its game when it comes to delivering high quality, sustainable spaces that are fit for the future.
This work really matters. The potential of great green spaces to tackle growing health inequalities, the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis is enormous. It’s why enhancing and maintaining Thamesmead’s landscape is a central part of Peabody’s long-term regeneration programme.
Back in 2014 we took ownership of two-thirds of the land across this South-East London town, which is roughly the same size as central London. We’re now custodians of more than 240 hectares of parks and green space, five lakes, seven kilometres of canals and 54,000 trees. Our Living in the Landscape framework outlines our inclusive approach enhancing and maintaining these extraordinary natural assets for everyone’s benefit.
The positive impact of our approach is now being felt across the whole town, not least because we’re working with rather than for local people. Thamesmead residents have continued to play a central role in the major transformation of the public realm, including revitalising green spaces at Claridge Way (commended in the RIBAJ), planting South London’s first ever tiny forest, designing new park facilities , and creating accessible new routes encouraging people to get out and about. In the coming months, we’ll see construction will begin on the South Thamesmead Garden Estate – a £3.9m programme of work (delivered in partnership with CLEVER Cities and muf architecture) which includes transforming an underused green chain walk into flourishing parkland. This is an evolution of the award-winning work we undertook to improve the public realm in South Thamesmead in 2020.
We’ve also welcomed volunteers to our Making Space for Nature programme, supported by Groundwork, CLEVER cities and the Mayor of London, and run in partnership with North West Kent Countryside Partnership. Through this, people of all ages have been able to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities including habitat creation, woodland coppicing, wildflower planting and general tidying and maintenance. This work takes place in different areas across Thamesmead, including Southmere Lake where we’ve invested £2.5m over recent years to improve the water quality and improve biodiversity. The opening of a new boating club in spring 2023 will enable even more people to get out on the water and enjoy new opportunities.
There are many people who come to Thamesmead and impressed by what we’re achieving. This is always encouraging to see. But I think that the real mark of success across the built environment sector will be when work like this is the norm rather than the exception. Because high quality green (and blue) spaces are critical for the health of our people and our planet. With that in mind, Fields in Trust’s emerging guidance, which stakeholders are being invited to shape, will be crucial reading for the sector. It’s time for us all to get involved and take action.