Green public realm key to revamp of central London's Victoria in Business Improvement District's plans

Green infrastructure central to Victoria Business Improvement District's development to transform central London area.

Dunnett: Diamond Garden work
Dunnett: Diamond Garden work

The amount of land given over to the public realm in the prime central London area of Victoria will "more than double" as part of a £4bn redevelopment.

Victoria Business Improvement District (BID) chairman Tom Foulkes made the pledge at the recent launch of the first Victoria Vibrancy Report, which celebrates the changes to Victoria already made and those to come.

The development, featuring offices, shops, homes and a £700m makeover of Victoria station, will transform the area into "a brilliant and new diverse business district" over seven-to-10 years, said Foulkes, adding that its days as a grey sector for Government buildings are over.

Central to this is the BID's promotion of green infrastructure, assisted by a green infrastructure audit by LUC and Green Roof Consultancy in 2010 that mapped and analysed green features and identified opportunities to create more than 25ha of green roofs, more than a hectare of new green infrastructure and improve 1.5ha of existing green infrastructure.

Since then, University of Sheffield professor Nigel Dunnett has designed two rain gardens in the area - the Diamond Garden for the Queen's jubilee and one being built by Landform Consultants for John Lewis's headquarters. There are four green walls, including the capital's largest, and Transport for London is considering tree pits.

Victoria BID environmental and sustainability manager David Beamont said: "The green infrastructure audit has led to so many different conversations with people. When people go past the living wall at Reuben's Hotel, they'll get their phones and iPads out and take pictures. The more schemes that go ahead, the more schemes we will have."

Victoria BID achieved neighbourhood business area status in October, allowing it to create a neighbourhood development plan and influence planning decisions. It has also commissioned London Metropolitan University and the University of York to study how visitor perceptions of the area change as more green space is added.

Chairman of the BID clean and green steering group Martin Kelly, a landscape architect, said: "We are working with other developers on retrofitting, new development, green roofs and brown roofs. Given half a chance we'll have more green walls - we're quite influential.

"It's not as big a challenge now as in the past because there is more empirical evidence how the public realm can benefit development. For most developers now it's not a case of if they're going to provide green infrastructure, it's how much."

Victoria BID's clean and green project won in the sustainability category of the 2013 Placemaking Awards.

iTree survey - Green benefits calculated

The Victoria Business Improvement District conducted an "i-Tree" survey of trees and vegetation in 2011.

It found that existing trees, green spaces and other green assets hold up and divert more than 112,000cu m of storm water run-off away from the water network annually, saving around £49,000 in pumping, treatment and carbon costs.

This summer, the RE:LEAF London Partnership is due to undertake an i-Tree survey of the whole capital.

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