The implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Borough’s across London during the pandemic has been controversial. As the debate around both intended and unintended consequences marches on, the fundamental objective of these new allocations remains important – enhancing urban environments in which we live and encouraging modal shift. Here we set out how Greenkeeper has recently helped several Borough’s in London understand how they can capitalise upon these new urban frameworks, to maximise their objectives and the positive impact they have on their local communities, and build upon the strides already made.

“When you review the figure ground layouts of our three Borough’s – Westminster, Hackney and Brent – it is hard to see where new greenspace can fit,” says John Haxworth the Barton Willmore lead on this commission. “But the huge proportion of urban environment handed over to traffic movement is a clear opportunity. One that we have a unique opportunity to grab through LTN’s, where so much of the hard work has been done already. In 2021, we were approached by the Greater London Authority, to help these three Borough’s develop a clear understanding of the opportunities, as well as costs and benefits of greening these spaces. And in turn hopefully inform and change the conversation.”

Solutions for Westminster, Hackney and Brent

At both Westminster and Hackney, Greenkeeper designers and economic specialists worked with the Borough teams to capitalise on their LTN moves by transforming them into green spines that reconnect existing greenspaces. Further traffic reduction, planting, dedicated active travel facilitation, robust play spaces and refurbished amenities such as toilets and social spaces all build strong green corridors. Transition spaces along these Borough’s key routes, that deliver green immersion and the resultant physical health and wellbeing benefits, to 1000’s of people every day. We demonstrated how greening ambitions, in some instances debated for over a decade already, could be supported with a clearly evidenced return on investment, delivering a complete ‘return’ within just three years of completion, via extensive social value for everyone in the local community.

At Brent, the challenges were bigger, with an area facing major socio-economic challenges and a local shopping centre blighted by a huge dual carriageway arterial road acting as a barrier to pedestrian movement. By harnessing the opportunity the low traffic neighbourhood moves make, our team designeda scheme that narrowed and transformed this barrier into a linear street park. Relinking residential streets to the local centre and community infrastructure, while reducing traffic dominance and facilitating active travel. By delivering green immersion for local people, along a key route for commuters, shoppers, school children, etc. the physical health and wellbeing benefits are maximised as per the numbers below, while a cost benefit analysis again demonstrates how these values represent a return-on-investment, including maintenance, of just 3 years.  

Street greening, robust play areas, upgraded local centre and connected existing open spaces combine to deliver huge social value for Church Street in Brent

What each of these examples demonstrate is that, to deliver strong financial cases for change and justify the loss of road infrastructure, councils need to be bold and ambitious. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods need to deliver meaningful change and enhancement if they are to be acceptable to local residents, and particularly drivers. And through bold change Greenkeeper can demonstrate how quickly a return on investment and significant enhancement can be possible, which delivers significant social as well as environmental and economic value to a Borough.  

“This project has challenged us to really get under the skin of what a green street is,” says John Haxworth. “Greener streets can of course be delivered through digging some holes and planting trees, they can be enhanced by reducing tarmac and incorporating sustainable urban drainage. But the real, big value can only be delivered if we really stretch this concept and drive for green corridors on key streets within a city. Street parks that connect community infrastructure such as schools and parks, doctors’ surgery and local shops and are fundamentally connected into a wider considered green infrastructure strategy.”

If you have a Low Traffic Neighbourhood or urban environment which you are considering greening options for, do get in touch!

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