Westminster proposes more green space, SuDS and public realm in 'City for All' masterplan

Westminster City Council has outlined a masterplan which would increase publicly accessible open space by up to 40% as part of a plan to create 1,700 new homes over the next 15-20 years.

Artist impression showing increased public realm in the masterplan. Image: Westminster City Council
Artist impression showing increased public realm in the masterplan. Image: Westminster City Council

The masterplan describes the local authority’s transformation programme for the Church Street area, near Marylebone, which identifies nine regeneration sites and builds on current development sites under way there or nearby.

It is the largest regeneration the council has yet undertaken and would create "a network of squares and gardens with play areas".

According to the masterplan, by LDA Design and development and infrastructure consultants Peter Brett Associates, the area is "vibrant and complex" but, despite being close to the West End, has issues of social and economic exclusion, which result in poorer health outcomes and lower than average rates of economic activity than neighbouring areas.

"A critical objective of the masterplan is to facilitate improved health and well-being outcomes across the area," the masterplan says.

The document calls the plans "landscape-led, looking to create a place before buildings, putting people and lifestyle at the forefront of design." 

The masterplan outlines:

• A greener neighbourhood with new public open spaces and public realm
• Up to 40% increase in publicly accessible open space
• A hierarchy of squares and gardens with play areas for children of all ages
• An improved street network with high quality streets that promote walking and cycling
• Public realm enhancement works and upgraded shop fronts will create an attractive and safe environment
• Ecological and productive landscapes with a wide range of habitats
• Sustainable urban drainage and hybrid green/blue roofs to capture rainwater and greywater
• Green roofs and "living walls" to enhance site-wide biodiversity and air pollution 

It forms part of an ambition by the council to create a ‘City for All’, by building more affordable homes for local residents so that the borough is not purely for the privileged. Some 35% of the homes will be classed as affordable with existing secure tenants given the option to be re-housed in the scheme at social housing rent.

Many of the streets are post-war and have few good quality street trees and poor canopy cover. "Streets of this nature generally have a mainly low-quality hard urban character, further reduced by a lack of sufficient public realm, poor materials, a lack of seating opportunities and insufficient lighting," the masterplan says. 

A large swathe of the area was identified as deficient in access to open space, in Westminster City Council’s 2007 Open Space Strategy, the masterplan notes. Existing green spaces are well-used but often have issues, such as being inaccessible, semi-private, or being used by rough sleepers at night. Good quality parks nearby but outside the area are cut off by the busy Edgware Road, with both a lack of easy access or signage discouraging Church Street residents from accessing them. 

Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing, councillor Rachael Robathan, said: "Church Street is a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood and the masterplan looks to meet the needs of today’s and future generations in the area."

The plans are out for public consultation until 29 October 2017.

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