Peabody and LDA Design have launched ‘Living in the Landscape’, a blueprint for how natural systems can change lives for the better in Thamesmead, London. It will ensure landscape is central to the town’s recovery as housing or transport.
The report sets out an ambitious programme to ensure Thamesmead is more biodiverse, sociable, healthier and inclusive. It supports the desire of Peabody, one of London’s largest and oldest housing associations, to put the vulnerable first and co-design change with residents.
Natural capital accounting makes a strong and urgent case for change and the enormous benefits of investing in green infrastructure. For example, investment of up to £100m in capital costs generates benefits worth £850m to the people of Thamesmead over 30 years.
Why is it needed?
For the Greater London Council, reclaiming the marshy eastern reaches of the River Thames for a New Town was an opportunity to create a modernist utopia for 60,000 people. In this vision, concrete and modern amenities went hand in hand with unrivalled green space and waterways. Londoners chose the name Thamesmead, a place where the land and the river are valued equally.
In the end, Thamesmead experienced decades of shortfall in investment. Development has since been piecemeal and ad hoc with housing turning its back on the waterways. Even though Thamesmead is home to 45,000 people, it can feel empty. Many people are living on low incomes and in poor health, and the town was designed for the car and not for active travel.
Peabody is planning major changes that will see the town double in size by 2050. Their vision for recovery will create new destinations and attractive public realm so the place will feel busy and safe, and lives can start to overlap. Thamesmead’s landscape will be made to work hard, providing flood protection, richer biodiversity, play, trails and leisure. New jobs will come through green industries and social enterprise such as food growing and urban farming.
Dr Phil Askew, Peabody’s Director of Landscape and Placemaking for Thamesmead, said: “Making better use of Thamesmead’s green spaces and lakes and canals will show how wonderful urban living can be in a post-pandemic world. There will be better connectivity so people can walk and cycle between different neighbourhoods. The blue and green spaces will mitigate climate change. We are pioneering a sustainable new town for London where it will be easy to live an active and healthy life.”
Focus will be on restoring Thamesmead’s fractured relationship with the Thames, as well as its extraordinary lakes and canals. The Framework rests on six tenets: that Thamesmead will be a place of choices; that life is close to nature; that connectivity will be a gamechanger; that, here, inclusion counts for a great deal; that Thamesmead will be resilient to climate breakdown; and well managed and cared for. Five programmes of change focusing on water, biodiversity, activity, a productive landscape and improved connectivity work together to harness Thamesmead’s natural systems. The Thamesmead Test will measure new development and ensure it is never generic.
The Framework is supported by a Biodiversity Action Plan that will make Thamesmead one of the most biodiverse areas in London, prioritising black poplar, pollinators, European eel and water voles. ‘Living in the Landscape’ also contributes to wider strategic goals such as flood protection, the Thames 2100 plan, Bexley and Greenwich GI strategies, and sport and recreation provision.
Led by LDA Design, ‘Living in the Landscape’ was developed with specialist support from Continuum Sport and Leisure, Gary Grant and Green Infrastructure Consultancy, David Withycombe and Land Management Services, architects Project Orange, engineers SNC-Lavalin Atkins and Vivid Economics.