Urban Greening

Greening of London’s streets, buildings and other public spaces does more than change the look of these places. Roofs and walls covered in plants, street trees and small pocket parks in between buildings make the city a better place to live, work and invest. These green features act as part of London’s green infrastructure network to help clean our air, reduce the risk of flooding and keep the city cool.

Why we need more urban greening

London is a growing city. By 2050 it is expect that up to 3 million more people will live here. A well planned and managed green infrastructure network will be vital to help the city stay healthy and liveable as the population becomes larger. It will also help the city adapt as the climate changes and we experience hotter, dryer summers and more extreme downpours.

The Mayor’s new London Plan includes policies that protect the city’s best green spaces and natural areas. However, the pressures on land for the good quality homes, schools, hospitals and places of work which we need, means there will be few opportunities to create more traditional parks and nature reserves as the city grows. London must therefore become greener whilst also becoming denser. To meet this challenge new developments will need to include more green roofs, walls and other urban greening. Existing buildings, streets and public realm will need to become greener too.

How we're working to green London

The Mayor wants to significantly increase the area of green cover in the built environment. The London Environment Strategy includes policies and proposals that aim to ensure that more than half of London will be green by 2050 and the city’s tree canopy cover increases by 10 per cent.

Making developments greener

The draft London Plan includes a new Urban Greening Factor to guide boroughs on the amount of greening that ought to be included in major developments. This will make sure urban greening is included at the start of the development design process to accelerate London’s greening.

Greening streets

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy promotes the concept of Healthy Streets. This means streets becoming better places to walk and cycle, reducing Londoner’s exposure to poor air quality. Urban greening is a core element of Healthy Streets, helping to make streets part of a public realm network that is designed more for people than for vehicles.

The Mayor has also published a London Sustainable Drainage Action Plan to help London deal with the likely increase in heavy downpours and stormwater flooding. Sustainable drainage (often called SuDS) aims to slow down the rate at which stormwater enters the piped drainage network. It includes installation of rain-gardens, street trees and other ‘nature-based solution’. Transport for London have produced SuDS in London guidance.

Turning grey areas of impermeable surfacing to green reduces the risk of flash flooding by intercepting and slowing down the flow of rainfall to our sewers and waterways. We have published a Grey to Green guide for communities who want to run their own depaving projects.

We’re also working with businesses to green streets and the public realm. Business Improvement Districts in central London have been working together through the Greening the BIDs initiative to improve the quality and experience of streets and public realm through urban greening.

Greening buildings

Our 2008 report on living roofs and walls created a policy framework that resulted in a significant increase in the installation of green roofs and walls, particularly on new buildings in central London and areas undergoing regeneration. Green roofs and walls are an essential component of a greener, denser city especially in those areas which have historically had a deficiency in parks and green spaces. They can help store stormwater, provide additional wildlife habitat, or, increasingly, create greener public realm or roof gardens above our busy streets.

Ten years on from the original report we published an update - Living Roofs and Walls: from policy to practice - to review the success of the policy and sign-post more recent innovations in the design and delivery of green roofs and green walls. The report also includes a range of case-studies highlighting good practice in urban greening in London

Evidence and advice

We have developed a greenness index to highlight areas of the city with low levels of green cover. This can be used to highlight where new urban greening is needed most.

Advice and best practice

The links below can help you to plan and deliver high quality urban greening.

What Londoners can do to help

Everyone can help to green the grey. You could:

  • create a rain garden full of plants to reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain 
  • build a green roof on your shed, bike or bin store 

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