Public Space

London’s public spaces are where the public life of the city is played out and civic identity is defined. A city that is attractive to everyone offers better quality of life and long-term economic growth. Find out how we’re continuing to improve this.

Improving London’s public spaces

We’re working to improve public spaces around London to make our city a better place to live, work and visit. Our priorities include:

  • reducing the dominance of vehicles on London’s streets
  • improving conditions for walking and cycling
  • redesigning parks to increase their usage
  • creating pocket parks in the denser areas of the city
  • providing spaces for outdoor cultural activity

Our public space work

London's Great Outdoors

Under the previous Mayor we co-ordinated the London’s Great Outdoors initiative, working on a range of projects and programmes with Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor’s Culture, Environment and Events teams.

We invested in public space under this initiative using our various regeneration funds, alongside funding from Housing Zones, Pocket Parks, Big Green Fund, Help a London Park, the Forestry Commission RE:LEAF Community Grant Scheme, Capital Clean-Up and the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund.

TfL also worked on related projects, including its Road Modernisation PlanMini-Hollands, Cycle Superhighways, Crossrail complementary measures and LIPS Major Schemes programmes.

240 public space improvement projects were implemented or commenced as part of London’s Great Outdoors, including:

  • Exhibition Road changed this unwelcoming road into a stunning public space
  • Elephant & Castle changed this gyratory to provide two-way traffic, dedicated cycle lanes and safer pedestrian crossings at surface level
  • Barkingside, Redbridge created a more accessible and usable setting for buildings at the northern end of the high street and remodelled the town square as an open area for markets and community events
  • Breaker’s Yard, Hackney turned this former breaker’s yard into an attractive Pocket Park

Find Your London

In March 2016, the Mayor’s Find Your London event built on the London’s Great Outdoors initiative by celebrating London’s outdoor spaces - from gardens to parks, high streets to marketplaces. This 11 day festival featured over 100 events across London.

Strategic leadership for London’s public spaces

Strategic leadership is required to protect and nurture London’s public spaces. It's also needed to build consensus around the design and development of new and improved public spaces.

The Mayor’s regeneration team convenes a monthly public space working group, which brings together key stakeholders involved in the management, maintenance and improvement of London’s public spaces. The importance of well-designed public space to improve Londoners’ quality of life is explicitly recognised in the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

We helped to draft the All London Green Grid Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) (March 2012), a policy framework that promotes the design and delivery of ‘green infrastructure’ across London. It is supported by eleven area frameworks which identify projects to help deliver the vision set out in the original SPG.

We also helped to draft the following GLA guidance documents related to public space in London:

  • Green Infrastructure Task Force Report (December 2015) – identifies the changes to policy, governance, valuation and funding that are needed to ensure long-term investment in London’s green infrastructure
  • Action for High Streets (July 2014) highlights the value and potential of London’s high streets, as well as the many challenges they face
  • Culture on the High Street (July 2013) helps local authorities, town centre managers and business improvement districts to improve the quality and ambition of culture on our high street
  • London’s Great Outdoors – A Manifesto for Public Space (November 2009) - sets out the criteria to guide the London Development Agency (LDA) and Transport for London (TfL) when making decisions about where to invest in public realm improvements

We work in close collaboration with TfL, through our public space working group and on many other projects, supporting and promoting a number of their key initiatives for public space in London:

  • Roads Task Force (2012) confronts the key challenges facing London's streets and roads
  • Street Types for London (since 2012) helps planners work together to ensure a consistent experience on TfL and borough roads whether travelling by foot, bicycle, bus or car
  • TfL Health Action Plan (February 2014) - sets out how TfL is working to improve the health of people in London, including by improving public spaces to make Londoners more physically active

Why invest in London’s public space?

A new London landscape is beginning to emerge: a vibrant public life shared by everyone from pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers, and buses to party-goers, runners, dog-walkers, artists, and traders.

The difference that public space-related transport, regeneration, environment, culture and economy projects make to the quality of life for Londoners and visitors to London is immense.

We want to encourage this by reshaping London to fit 21st century needs and aspirations. This means making London’s public spaces more continuous, connected, accessible and popular. Improving the look and feel of the city in this way can make it a healthier, more pleasant place for residents and visitors. It can also help to create the right environment for businesses to thrive.