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News analysis: All London Green Grid

JAMES DEAN, Photography: © Jason Orton
The recently introduced All London Green Grid brings a coherent approach to the implementation of green infrastructure in our capital city. Building on the success of the East London Green Grid, it identifies key areas of action that can knit together the wealth of green resources that the city already has. Jamie Dean explains the detail.

London is a green city. It owes this, its character and its spatial form to the landscapes of the Thames and its tributaries, to the big green metropolitan spaces at its fringe, and to the distinguished cultural legacy of its squares, avenues and notably its great parks.

These various and unique assets reinforce a sense of place and identity, improve health and well-being, boost environmental resilience and make the capital a more attractive, admired, prosperous and liveable city. The All London Green Grid (ALGG) Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), the recently published Green Infrastructure Strategy for London, sets out to capitalise on these assets.

It expands upon the existing network of open spaces to establish a key supportive infrastructure that can operate alongside roads, utilities and other physical infrastructure to address the environmental challenges ahead. It offers a landscape-scale vision for London to shape and support sustainable growth, respond to the challenges of climate change and deliver improved quality of life.

It is both local and metropolitan in scale. And when seen in conjunction with the Green Belt and Blue Ribbon Network policies it can be seen as landscape as urbanism. Building on the successes of the East London Green Grid, the ALGG extends across the capital using the key landscape corridors of the Thames tributaries and identifying transverse links in-between. It incorporates established open spaces and recent achievements such as the Olympic Park and recognises opportunities for new ones, such as the Wandle Valley Regional Park; it integrates designated and protected landscapes and connects with the often neglected and in parts degraded urban fringe.

The ALGG is a progression from perceiving London as a city punctuated by parks, green spaces and surrounded by countryside, to an appreciation of this network as part of the city’s fundamental infrastructure. It advances large-scale thinking and integrated action to plan, develop and manage open space and natural landscapes in relation to the many uses they can serve.

London has around 50,000 ha of publicly accessible open space over 1ha in size. However deficiencies in provision create gaps in London’s spatial character and wider open-space network. These have been identified alongside proposals to address them via an approach to mapping and addressing deficiency that has been used in London since the Greater London Development Plan published in 1976, which itself drew on the great landscape and open-space plans of 1929 and 1943-44. The ALGG looks similarly closely at deficiencies in access to sites of nature conservation importance.

While London’s existing flood defences, drainage systems and green space networks already contribute to managing flooding, the increasing risk resulting from climate change will require creative solutions to be incorporated into the design of existing and new development. The ALGG SPG promotes an expanded and reshaped network of green infrastructure significantly to absorb and temporarily retain rainwater, reducing both strategic and local flood risk. In addition, the ALGG draws on lessons from warmer cities, reinforced by technical studies, to examine how green spaces and trees can have a cooling effect on the surrounding built environment.

Designated cycling and walking networks support and promote sustainable transport choices, leisure options and physical activity. They pass through and help form the green infrastructure network in a mutually beneficial way and they link up transport hubs and places of landscape, cultural and heritage interest.

This contributes to the world-class status of the capital as a visitor destination. The green spaces and extensive parklands of Greenwich Riverside in East London and London’s Arcadia in South West London complement and expand the visitor experience to some of London’s most historic sites. The ALGG also aims to promote sustainable food production. Using land for food growing promotes active lifestyles, better diets, food security and social cohesion.

Having set the vision, the SPG proposes an enhanced framework for delivery. The starting point is the identification of 11 Green Grid Areas (GGA) and the establishment of partnerships throughout
London to promote cross-boundary working.

This approach does not replace but seeks to work through existing projects and partnerships. It unites them at the landscape scale and acts as a resource to achieve greater integration, providing both strategic and local impact. It has been extremely successful in accelerating delivery in East London through the East London Green Grid (ELGG) and the Thames Gateway Parklands Initiative. The ALGG consolidates this work, builds on this experience and establishes a pan-London framework using the support of and input from a broad base of partners with a wide range of aspirations.

The ALGG concept is also to be embedded in Neighbourhood Plans, Local Development Documents, Area Action Plans, Intensification Area Planning Frameworks, Community Strategies, Open Space Strategies, regeneration framework initiatives, master plans, development proposals, projects and other appropriate pan-London strategies including the Mayor’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Local Transport Plans.

Furthermore the GLA is working with boroughs and other stakeholders to put into place the appropriate governance structures needed to drive forward the ALGG and secure the resources for its delivery. It will work with partners to prepare a Delivery Plan that identifies and develops key Green Grid projects for investment, drawn from the 11 Green Grid Area Frameworks.

As the city adapts to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century, traditional infrastructures must be re-considered and augmented to integrate a range of environmental and social functions. The ALGG is a framework that promotes landscape as such a complementary and integrated infrastructure. It provides amulti-scale spatial structure, to positively shape and support growth and to deliver a mode of sustainable movement and inhabitation. At its most successful it links the landscape scale with the everyday life of the city and the many overlapping cultures of a given place.

In London as is the case elsewhere landscape architects are at the heart of this approach. The ALGG SPG and the wider associated strategies, area frameworks etc are proposed to frame and support their attempts.
NOTES — The ALGG expands on major themes and commitments first set out in the Mayor of London’s public realm manifesto— London’s Great Outdoors and associated guides Better Streets and Better Green and Water Spaces. The ALGG SPG has been prepared by the GLA’s Design for London, Environment and London Plan teams in close collaboration with the London Boroughs, adjacent districts and counties, Transport for London, Environment Agency, Natural England, Groundwork London, London Parks and Greenspaces Forum, Geographic Information Greater London (GIGL), London Wildlife Trust and English Heritage.
Aspects of the ALGG SPG are drawn from eleven Area Frameworks planned at the landscape scale and prepared by a range of leading landscape consultants including; Adams and Sutherland with Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects, Gross Max, East Architecture and Landscape, J+L Gibbons, Lyn Kinnear, Peter Beard / Landroom, 5th Studio and Shape Landscape Architects. The final draft was prepared with support from the Mayor of London’s Design Advisory Panel and its ALGG Expert Panel: Terry Farrell, Val Kirby, Peter Neal and Ken Worpole.

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