From Greenwich Peninsula to Woodberry Down in Hackney:new London mega-districts are making the capital greener with hidden nature reserves, allotments and 'pocket parks'

Hidden nature reserves, reservoirs and gasworks in the capital are set to be transformed into new homes as planners push for green spaces to be 'designed in' to new housing projects. 

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An inspired project that involves relocating tens of thousands of “unwanted” plants from the Chelsea Flower Show to a former gasworks in Greenwich where an entire new district is being built is yet another example of how London is at the forefront of innovative moves to weave nature into the urban fabric.

Opening next week, Farmopolis has a floating “jetty garden” on the Thames that is also a new cultural venue and community hub, with food and nature activities such as experimental supper clubs, botanical jewellery-making, literary salons and theatre workshops.

The aim is to “bring plants and people together. To integrate community, nature and culture,” says Heather Ring, director of Wayward, a collective of landscape designers, architects and urban growers that focuses on under-utilised land and forgotten spaces.

Planners see the sense in putting ecology at the heart of new housing projects. The memory is only too recent of those harsh and brutal post-war concrete high rise estates that crushed the spirit of so many people. 

Planners are now encouraging developers to “design in” green space — orchards, meadows and allotments — with built-in flood defences as an environmental priority.

Creative landscaping

The 15,000-home neighbourhood at Greenwich Peninsula is starting to take shape, with apartments in glass-clad waterfront towers available to buy off-plan now. Already, an ecology park with two lakes managed by the Land Trust charity has been established beside a yacht club. 

This wildlife sanctuary has a nature trail and adventure play area for kids and also links into a new 1.5-mile riverside promenade. Prices from £410,000. Call 020 8305 2712.

Ever more ambitious projects prove that creative landscaping is no longer the afterthought in new housing. Developers are also opening up and improving neglected and derelict sites that have been closed to the public for generations, transforming them into areas recreation and relaxation.

All these projects are only the start, according to New London Landscape, a forum for some of the capital’s best and brightest architects and eco-campaigners, which is backing ideas such as the transformation of a disused railway siding in Peckham into an elevated green space, a version of New York’s Highline, lined by new homes.

From £489,500: Hendon Riverside is located on 30 acres and borders the giant the Welsh Harp reservoir, a Site of Special Scientific Interest 

Reservoirs of hope

“All kinds of amazing things are possible,” says NLL. “Because of global warming and population growth, we need city-wide strategies — a dynamic and integrated approach to our limited land resources.”

London’s giant reservoirs are ripe territory for this.

Woodberry Down, Hackney, where an old council estate has been bulldozed down and rebuit in an initiative between private developers and the council, has created 4,600 new homes neighbourhood. 

It sits in zone 2 and occupies an stunning setting alongside two vast reservoirs and the New River. It is 64 acres in total. A sailing club uses one of the reservoirs for water sports, while the other is a nature reserve with a joggers “trim trail”. 

Crisp new apartment blocks are linked by a series of “pocket parks” and open spaces.

Designated “Sites of Metropolitan Importance”, the reservoirs had been off-limits for 200 years but have become a popular place for sailing clubs, recreation and an enjoyable walk for buggy-pushing mums from the wider area who like to visit the wetlands environmental resource centre and cafe. There is even urban bee- keeping and honey production.

From £755,000Fulham Riverside sits on the site of a former Kops Brewery and 467 apartments surround a central podium garden running down to the Thames

Aptly-named Nature Collection, the latest block of apartments has been unveiled, with prices starting at £475,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8895 9918.

Hendon Waterside, with 2,000 new homes on 30 acres, borders the giant Welsh Harp reservoir, a Site of Special Scientific Interest also home to a canoe club. 

This leafy new neighhourhood has a mix of high-rise and low-rise buildings with shops and cafés at street level. Vista, the latest phase, is a 26-storey tower with two-bedroom water-view apartments priced from £489,500. Call 0844 811 4321.down by the waterside

Camley Street Natural Park in King’s Cross is another place where birds and butterflies now flourish. This two-acre wildlife refuge is wedged between railway tracks and the Regent Canal. 

Once used to store coal transported along the canal, the spot was earmarked as a coach park but survives as a serene nature reserve where you can wander along overgrown pathways, hear the rush of water running through a nearby lock and from the grass verges watch colourful barge boats pass through.

Residents of Onyx, a scheme of 117 flats alongside the park and overlooking the canal, have this privilege. Prices from £675,000. Call Taylor Wimpey on 020 3866 0956.

Vauxhall City Farm, a little piece of countryside in inner London, has been spruced up and enlarged by developer St James, which has built eight new 

family homes next to the farm, part of wider regeneration along Albert Embankment. Call 020 8246 4190.

Fulham Riverside, a redevelopment of former Kops Brewery, where 467 apartments surround a central podium garden running down to the Thames and a new 160-metre jetty will “host” a nature reserve managed by Thames Explorer Trust and provide a safe access point for river-based sports and educational activities. Prices from £755,000. Call Barratt on 0844 811 4334.

Developers and Southwark council are looking at the feasibility of reinstating a section of Surrey Canal, concreted over in 1971, but offering the potential to create coveted waterside homes.

This lost waterway ran through Bermondsey, an area recently designated an “opportunity zone” by the Mayor and now earmarked for major housing schemes. 

A new train station will be built at Surrey Canal Road, linked to an £850 million project that includes 2,400 new homes and a sporting village on 30 derelict acres.

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