London property owners, The Crown Estate, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Shaftesbury, Howard de Walden and The Portman Estate, have today announced they have formed a unique collaboration to promote green infrastructure in the capital, through an ecology project entitled 'Wild West End.
The project, the first city centre ecology project worldwide to be conceived and driven forward by an industry partnership of this sort, is also being supported by the Mayor of London, and the London Wildlife Trust, both of which have agreed to provide advice, promote the objectives of Wild West End and collaborate with the partners on their individual green infrastructure plans going forward. Engineering consultancy Arup are providing technical advice and support to all the partners.
The first phase of Wild West End will see The Crown Estate create a green corridor across our holdings in Regent Street and St James’s (a total of 8 million ft2 of commercial real estate), linking Regent’s Park and St James’s Park. The plans will see the creation of over a hectare of new green space across these world leading commercial destinations, equivalent to one and a third times the size of the football pitch at Wembley Stadium.
Whilst we are set to kick start the Wild West End with our ecological master plan for Regent Street and St James’s, other West End property businesses are working on their own master plans to expand the project even further. Ultimately, the Wild West End will create an extensive network of green stepping stones which form connections between the large areas of parkland which are already key natural features of the overall environment in the West End.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London said: “London’s population is at an all-time high, so while we need to build new homes and improve transport infrastructure, we also need better quality green spaces. 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.”
James Cooksey, Head of Central London said: “With the trend towards urbanisation continuing across the world, it’s important for big property owners, businesses, government and charities to consider carefully their impact on plants, habitats and wildlife in major cities. That’s why we’ve launched the Wild West End. Along with our partners, we’re seeking to ensure that the millions of shoppers, workers and tourists that come to the West End’s densely packed urban environment each week, benefit from greater biodiversity by making space for the plants, birds and bees that form a crucial part of the ecosystem in London.”
Gordon Scorer, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a fabulous step to take. We need nature in the heart of our city, and in the heart of our lives no matter where we work, live or play. We welcome the Wild West End as a means to demonstrate how wildlife can flourish amidst the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and we are keen to play our part in realizing its ambitions.”
Research has shown that cities retain only 8 per cent of the native bird species and 25 per cent of the plant species of comparable undeveloped land. Set within the bustling urban environment of Regent Street and St James’s, The Crown Estate’s green corridor will integrate gardens at street level and on rooftops, as well as the installation of bird and bat boxes, beehives and green walls. The introduction of these green pockets amongst Regent Street and St James’s historic buildings will enliven the surrounding public spaces for visitors, and boost the range of habitats available in this part of central London so that wildlife can flourish alongside the millions of residents, workers and shoppers that visit the area each week.
It is also anticipated that Wild West End could have a positive impact on air quality in this part of the West End. In Chicago, introducing green roofs across 10 per cent of the buildings in the city removed 17,400 mg of nitrogen dioxide each year. Improved air quality has clear health benefits. One piece of research suggests that asthma rates among children aged four to five falls by a quarter for every additional 343 trees per square km, as they help keep the air clean and breathable. These benefits have a knock-on effect in terms of public health spending and Chicago estimates that its investment in green roofs could save somewhere between £17m and £65m in public health costs annually.
Information about the Wild West End will be on display to the public for the first time at the first of The Crown Estate’s Summer Streets traffic free shopping days on Regent Street on Sunday 5 July.