Wild West End
The project was initiated in 2015 and is ongoing.
Work to improve green infrastructure (GI) is carried out annually. A baseline survey of existing wildlife was undertaken in 2016 and is repeated every two years.
What problem did it address?
Central London is known for its dense development which has led to an increasingly fragmented and sparse natural landscape over time. The lack of connectivity between green spaces severely impacts local wildlife populations and limits access to nature for local residents, visitors and workers, affecting people’s mental health and wellbeing.
A key aim of Wild West End is to ‘connect’ existing green spaces by creating new GI corridors between such areas, thus allowing wildlife to better move between them and providing people increased access to nature.
How did it do it?
Seven of central London’s largest property owners are working together to implement a co-ordinated approach to the provision of GI by adopting a long-term shared vision which aims to:
- Enhance biodiversity and ecological connectivity.
- Improve the wellbeing of residents, workers and visitors by increasing connections to green space and the natural environment.
- Raise awareness of and promote the benefits of GI to inspire others.
While the landowners provide the space and investment in GI projects, Arup, a planning and design consultancy, provides the technical expertise. The Greater London Authority ensures strategic alignment with wider London environmental initiatives and the London Wildlife Trust provide strategic expertise by raising awareness of the city’s wildlife and supporting the project’s partners to become ambassadors for wildlife.
Each landowner has produced its own greening strategy which relates back to the overarching Wild West End ambitions for the area.
Since the project’s initiation in 2015, the partnership has installed over 2,500m2 of new GI. The installations include over 70 green roofs, 15 green walls, one rooftop allotment and hundreds of bee-friendly planters.
In 2020, the partnership announced a collaboration with seven Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the area to increase the project’s impact further still.
Who has benefitted and how?
By improving the public realm and providing better access to green space, the project has delivered benefits to residents, workers and visitors to the area, supporting improved wellbeing. A survey of people using the temporary Wild West End garden installation at Old Quebec Street indicated a 64% increase in self-reported wellbeing and 47% increase in the number of people walking through the street on average per day.
What was the cost and how was it developed?
The partners pay an annual membership fee which supports engagement, facilitation, monitoring and communications. Arup contributes to membership through time in kind.
Evidence of success
The project embeds a broad range of GI benefits delivered through new developments, retrofitted space on buildings and public realm improvement work. To ensure high quality delivery, Arup developed a Functional Value Matrix which sets out requirements to improve climate resilience, wellbeing and create social and biodiversity value, with an aim for each newly created GI feature to provide multiple functions.
Wild West End has delivered an increase in the extent of the green corridor by 27%, the number of green installations by 29%, and the area of green space associated with buildings by 36%.
Since the launch of the project in 2016, new bird species have been recorded in the area, such as that of the black redstart (four sightings in 2018) a species not recorded in the 2016 surveys. In 2018, four bat species were recorded, representing an increase from three bat species in 2016.
The project has won as many as five awards since its inception in 2016. The most recent of which was the IEMA Sustainability Impact Award for Biodiversity and Net Gain in 2019.
Space limitations were highlighted as a particular challenge for the project as it has not always been possible to deliver extensive GI onsite in a densely populated area, as a result the project looks to maximise the value of multiple and connected small-scale interventions. Challenges also arise around competing sustainability needs for open space such the provision of solar panels on rooftops or heritage requirements.
GI is often seen as a ‘nice to have’ but something that increases maintenance costs without creating monetary value. Wild West End aims to demonstrate the wider benefits of GI and how this contributes to the bigger picture.
Emily Woodason – Arup
- The Howard de Walden Estate
- The Portman Estate
- The Crown Estate
- Grosvenor Britain & Ireland
- Great Portland Estates
- The Church Commissioners for England
Websites and links to most relevant resources