Penny Thomas, Shaftesbury, shares her experience of urban greening

Penny Thomas, Shaftesbury, shares her experience of urban greening


Penny Thomas at Shaftesbury describes why small steps can achieve great strides in urban biodiversity

It takes more than 20,000 bees to fill a single jar of honey, with each small individual input having a large outcome –  a similar thing is happening for biodiversity in the West End of London.

For Shaftesbury, the greening of our Villages – from Carnaby to Covent Garden – is an intrinsic part of our sustainability strategy, but their central London locations produce challenges in terms of space and opportunity. Nevertheless, we recognise the value of green features not only for the benefit of city wildlife, but also to the occupiers and users of the area and even small-scale enhancements can greatly benefit biodiversity.

Property refurbishment and development projects provide a clear opportunity to introduce initiatives such as green roofs and walls. However, we have found imagination and an eye for the possible can identify other opportunities for smaller scale projects and to exploit unused space, such as service roofs.

Our approach has focussed on increasing the provision of sedum – also known as stone crop which is a wide-ranging genus of about 400 species with a variety of flowering colours and times - pollinator friendly planted window boxes, hanging baskets and planter boxes throughout our Villages. The combination of the sedum pods – located on vacant service roofs - planters, hanging baskets and window boxes create small areas of habitat which can link to roof gardens in adjacent buildings. 

These projects need to be practical and maintenance is a key consideration. The pods include up to 12 species of sedum ensuring optimal year-round performance; a coarse substrate of recycled organic material acts as a growing medium all contained within a lightweight 100% recycled plastic tray. This means they need only one or two visits a year to check on any plants that may need replacing or applying any nutrients in the green roof system. Sedum is low maintenance and even though a trim may be needed every few years the cuttings can be left as these will root again and thicken the matting. 

The planting regime for the hanging baskets and planters uses nectar rich flowering plants during the summer months such as geranium, fuchsia, lobelia, bacopa and salvia. During the winter perennial evergreens, ivy, lavender and buxus are used as the base with seasonal flowering plants added for colour. In the spring, primulas are added to provide a food source for bees early in the season.

As well as being a boon for pollinators and welcomed by visitors and local businesses the initiatives have captured the imagination of the whole Shaftesbury team and estate staff. Of all our sustainability initiatives, those relating to biodiversity have generated the greatest buy-in and interest from both staff and tenants. Even small projects can deliver sweet outcomes.

Penny Thomas, Company Secretary, Shaftesbury

London property owners join forces to launch Wild West End ecology initiative

London property owners join forces to launch Wild West End ecology initiative

"There is absolutely no doubt that parks and green spaces in urban areas improve people’s wellbeing and quality of life. Through the Wild West End we look forward to transforming a part of the city for thousands of residents, workers and tourists to enjoy even more.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London