London has only half the green space it needs

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By Alice Roberts
8th October 2020

Let’s turn grey space green! We want each London borough to transform a minimum of 30 of its streets into parks and play spaces.

We believe everybody deserves beautiful, tree-filled and grassy places in which to play, meet the neighbours, and just watch the world go by and this is a realistic way to achieve it. We can make better use of ‘grey space’ – roads and space given to parking for private vehicles – by turning streets into parks and playspaces. London has just half the green space it needs for a population its size and the situation is much worse in some inner London boroughs. It’s time to turn our grey space green.

Boroughs can identify areas with low car ownership which are often deprived areas with lots of people living in flats. These can be matched up with parts of the borough which lack green space. Those should be the locations for a minimum of thirty new parks in each London borough.

Let’s get on and create safe, quiet places for play or recreation, now!

Not all our streets are needed for parking or as through-routes for cars. Here are the plans for Alfred Place in Camden. This is an area where the vast majority of people travel on foot and by public transport. The many people working in the area have precious few options to get some air during their lunch break. By closing the road to traffic (except for access to buildings) the London Borough of Camden is proposing to make the street into a linear park.

This is what it Alfred Place looks like at the moment – not so lovely!

But a scheme like this might be regarded a too expensive at a time when London Boroughs are struggling financially. So instead they can identify some of the many streets which are not needed for through-traffic and just put some bollards in to make some local streets safe enough to play out…

Councils can use tree planters instead of bollards which are also a relatively cost-effective way of creating safe streets. These are now becoming a common site in London as boroughs introduce ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ to promote walking and cycling in response to the Covid pandemic.

Then boroughs can allow residents to replace a parking space with a ‘parklet’ in their street. Here are some parklets in Hackney. They can be seating or planting, or both: either way they are a cost-effective way of making people-friendly ‘park streets’.

There are many streets where there is more space given to parking than is actually needed by residents. This often becomes clear when Controlled Parking is brought in – as happened with this street in an Inner London borough which was relatively close to a train station.



So the council could also think about replacing some car parking spaces with street trees or ‘gardens’ placed between parking spaces – rather than on the pavement where they remove space from pedestrians and wheelchair users. Here are trees placed between parking spaces and a visualisation of ideas for change to Marylebone High St.

But if that’s too expensive… the bigger transformation can be brought in over time as and when funds allow. Here’s Van Gogh Walk in Lambeth – Before & After. And two streets in Amsterdam where space has been created for kids to play.

Image credits:

Alfred St images After  and Before: Google Maps
Boy and man playing cricket: Sustrans here
Parklet with flowers – CPRE London image.
Parklet with people
Introduction of Controlled Parking. Image with lots of parked cars: Google Maps. Image with far fewer parked cars: CPRE London image.
Trees between car parking spaces
Marylebone High St proposals
Amsterdam play areas – Google Map