MP calls for transformation of railway land at station garden opening

Zac Goldsmith MP has called on Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail to "get their heads around" transforming "hundreds of miles of barren railway verges" across London into wildlife havens.

Haven for wildlife - Kew Energy Garden. Image: Groundwork London
Haven for wildlife - Kew Energy Garden. Image: Groundwork London

Speaking at the opening of four new garden areas at Kew Gardens Station, which serves Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston (pictured second left), praised the efforts that had made the complex project involving professional gardeners, volunteers, charities, TfL and the local council, possible, and called for more across the capital.

The station has been planted with more than 1,500 plants in four garden areas called collectively the Kew Energy Garden. Globe thistles, Foxgloves, Lambs Ears, Wood spurge, Hellebores and Verbena were all used in a design created by Kew’s Gardens’ Suzie Jewell.

Her planting scheme aims to provide colour and interest to the platforms all year round. The beds have been planted with shrubs and herbs that are hardy and easy to maintain.

The new garden was officially launched last week with the help of Goldsmith, TfL managing director Mark Wild, director of horticulture at RBGK Richard Barley, Richmond Council’s deputy mayor, councillor Benedict Dias and director of Groundwork London Ben Coles.

The project has taken two years to complete and is a collaboration between The Kew Society, TfL, RBGK, Richmond Council, London community gardening group Energy Garden. It is one of 40 unused spaces that Energy Garden is working to develop, following a £750,000 grant from the Postcode Lottery through its Dream Fund programme. The £15,000 cost of the Kew garden came from £12,000 from the Postcode Lottery and £3,000 from the Richmond Civic Amenity Fund.

Goldsmith said: "It’s no small feat pulling big bureaucracies together like the council and TFL, and to get them to work together in this way. So someone has done a huge amount of work here and I’m grateful to Caroline and the Kew Society for their hard work. And of course Kew Gardens.

"Along with Richmond Park, it is my favourite place on earth. It is not just a local source of pride or even a national source of pride, it is a global institution, a global treasure. This is for so many people coming to Kew Gardens the gateway to it. The first thing people should feel when they get off a train at Kew Gardens Station is plants, nature and wildlife and that’s what you’ve achieved here.

"I’d like to suggest that we go further. We have hundreds of miles of barren railway verges that could become havens for wildlife. I really hope TfL and Network Rail and all the other institutions can get their heads around this and deliver wildlife corridors across our great city."

Coles agreed "there is a tremendous asset for London in the corridors around the stations". He called the project a very exciting opportunity.

The Energy Garden programme delivered by Repowering London in partnership with Groundwork London provided most of the funding as well as staff to organise the planting and oversee on-going maintenance.

The aim is to issue community shares - a scheme where people can invest in a community project or business and any return on investment is split between the project and the investor - to pay for ongoing maintenance and renewal. 

The project was also awarded a grant from Richmond Council’s Civic Pride Fund. Jewell provided her services pro bono.

TFL's Wild said the garden was "a brilliant example of bringing the community into our station" and reflected TfL’s approach to diversity and making its stations welcoming places to use and work.

Photo shows from left to right: Groundwork Green Team trainee Julius Boyed, Zac Goldsmith MP, Kew Society chair Caroline Brock, councillor Benedict Dias, councillor Susan Chappell from the Civic Pride Fund and Green Team supervisor Jane Dixon-Halsall.

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