Wild West End
Jess Kennedy, MIEMA CEnv, Arup sustainability associate director, talks about the green space project that won IEMA’s Biodiversity and Environmental Net Gain Award
What was your role on the project?
I have been a sustainability advisor to The Crown Estate since 2014, which was carrying out an urban greening strategy for its London portfolio with Arup’s ecologists and landscape architects. This developed into the idea to create a broader network of green spaces by partnering with surrounding landholders. My role began by approaching the surrounding landholders to pitch the idea and outline what the objectives would be.
And what were those objectives?
We had a vision of creating a network of green space ‘stepping stones’ connecting parkland in the West End. We had three objectives: improving wellbeing for residents; enhancing biodiversity and ecological connectivity; and promoting the benefits of green infrastructure.
Did you achieve those goals?
We are monitoring progress every two years with the London Wildlife Trust, a strategic partner. We created a ‘value matrix’, which takes the different functions green spaces provide, such as biodiversity and wellbeing, and establishes what ‘good’ looks like for each. We set criteria for different types of green spaces so we could create a level of consistency. We have also done before-and-after surveys at public realm installations.
How has the Wild West End been received?
It has been well received by Westminster City Council and the local business improvement districts. There has been a lot of interest, especially about green roofs, so the feedback is really positive. The Crown Estate has done a lot of work targeted at the public through its Summer Streets events, and has employed a theatre group to act out the concept of Wild West End, which helps children understand the benefits.
Was it difficult creating partnerships between landholders?
They are like-minded organisations with similar goals in terms of long-term stewardship. It is about finding ways of creating mutual benefit, and they could all share the same objective of adding value to their estate while contributing to the broader benefit to the local environment.
What challenges did you encounter?
It’s hard to retrofit green space into dense urban areas. We were trying to put green roofs into buildings that are heritage listed, so there were challenges. There are also difficulties putting these spaces in the public realm because there are lots of parties you have to bring together to work on those sites. I think one of the benefits is that we can share lessons learned.
What was most crucial to your success?
The ability to create something bigger than the sum of its parts, and having a vision people could buy into. Prior to Wild West End the different partners were installing green space, but it was done in isolation. When it is part of a broader network, the benefits become more apparent. There isn’t another partnership like this that we are aware of, and we hope it’s a model for others.
What did you think of IEMA’s award ceremony?
I thought it was a really well run event – I liked the MC, I thought he did a great job! It is encouraging to see IEMA set up these awards, and Arup will certainly be interested in entering more projects next year. I think it is good to bring the environmental community together and celebrate its achievements.
Wild West End highlights
- Wild West End is a unique partnership between six large landholders: The Crown Estate, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, The Portman Estate, Great Portland Estate, The Howard de Walden Estate, and Shaftesbury.
- Findings from 2018 surveys show that the project has delivered an additional 2,500m2 of green space since 2016, equivalent to almost 10 tennis courts. This includes more than 60 green roofs, 14 green walls, 10 garden squares, two pocket parks and one allotment.
- Bird surveys results indicated a greatly improved healthy diversity of urban-adapted birds in the area, including goldfinch, robin and the great spotted woodpecker. The black redstart was also spotted – one of the UK’s rarest species. Additionally, at least four bat species were recorded in 2018.