Paddington Street, Westminster, London
The Marylebone Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN) initiative was established in July 2016 in partnership with Westminster City Council and local stakeholders; stretching across multiple streets, weaving in and out of cafes, gift shops, the bustling high street and overshadowed by the famous BT Tower. The programmes’ mission was to improve the areas resilience to climate change, improve air quality, reduce the risk of flood events and contribute to public health. This was designed using green infrastructure as sustainable drainage features.
Following serious flooding in the area, the traditional gullies connecting to large catchments were considered not able to cope with more extended rainfall events which led to drains frequently overflowing. To resolve the flooding issues, nine different bioretention systems were included within the designs by engineers working for WSP: these SuDS features included rain gardens with kerb inlets laying flush with the footpath and highways adopted SuDS tree pits within the hard paving. Striving to improve the safety of the commute for pedestrians and cyclists, these pockets of beauty have been created to utilise nature-based solutions and contribute towards increased canopy cover in Westminster. This system also allowed for spaces to be made for electric vehicle charging.
Air pollution in parts of London regularly reaches dangerous levels and is a severe health issue, shortening the lives of Londoner’s by up to 9,400 premature deaths per year due to respiratory challenges. The scientific research on London’s air quality is increasingly evolving, now covering over 200 sites. Situated within the Marylebone low emission area is St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School which got their students involved by creating their very own ‘Green Team’ alongside the charity Sustrans. The school was keen to use this project as an educational tool for the students by setting up experiments, such as placing test tubes inside and outside to measure the levels of toxic gasses including Nitrogen Dioxide. Following the implementation of the LEN, the Green Team were relieved to discover that the amount of pollution near their school was now low and within safe limits. The public has also been educated about the project by a permanent sign situated within the rain garden which explains the benefits of the scheme.
Westminster City Council is both the client and adopting highway authority, therefore were fully involved in this project from the design stage through to implementation. Working with the council and designers were the appointed contractors, FM Conway, who installed GreenBlue Urban’s Rootspace soil cell structure to create a load-bearing structure holding uncompacted soil. The tree pits act as a multi-functional nature-based solution to absorb the water runoff from the highway, acting as a soft planted rain garden as well as utilising the space as a tree pit.
Working around the clock to accommodate the works around a busy area in a timely manner, the Rootspace product was a gift to the contractors with its quick installation and easy to assemble modules.
Marylebone low emission neighbourhood has seen multiple benefits since completion; increased biodiversity to the area, reduced air pollution, reduced noise pollution, bringing cooling on hot summer days, but most importantly there has not been a flooding issue during a storm event since. Overall, this neighbourhood design to implement low emissions has been a success in all areas, proven by increased sustainable travel and the approval of the local population.