The growth and reach of Wild West End
Arup has been instrumental in bringing together seven of London’s largest landholders to create a world-first in urban greening. Wild West End is a pioneering partnership that clearly demonstrates the advantages of collaboration and how patiently working towards a shared vision gradually reaps greater and greater rewards.
In a crowded city centre, it takes imagination to weave in the equivalent of more than ten tennis courts worth of extra green space. This is how much the partners of Wild West End have added to the West End since it was formed in 2015. The project is ongoing, and the partners continue to work together to find ways to enhance ecological connectivity and encourage wildlife back into the capital.
Space is at a premium, so the key is integrating valuable green steppingstones that deliver multiple benefits. An Arup-designed value matrix ensures that each green space is working hard and delivering against desired outcomes.
2,600m² of green space
Like-minded partners with a shared vision
At the heart of Wild West End is a group of like-minded partners who have a common purpose: to make their corner of London more biodiverse and resilient to climate change, and in doing so, create a better place to live, work and visit. Realising the potential in such an alliance, Arup was instrumental in bringing the partners together and now acts as the partnership’s technical lead.
In 2016, we carried out a green space and wildlife baseline survey to enable us to monitor the success of the partnership and quantify the benefits of added green space. We replicate this every two years, so results can be clearly measured. Our bespoke value matrix guides partners to design for the local context and consider who they are designing for. The matrix comprises five themes: biodiversity, wellbeing, social interaction, climate and microclimate, and each new green space must deliver against at least two of these benefits. When space is at a premium, multi-functionality is key.
Small changes reap big rewards
In real terms, for ground-level installations, this may mean that in addition to creating habitat for wildlife, a linked green space also provides an attractive thoroughfare for walking and cycling, which can be further encouraged through wayfinding. Or a green roof – invisible from the ground – can target biodiversity enhancement and mitigating climate effects.
When installations are considered this way, the combined impacts are enhanced. For example, Wild West End Garden on Old Quebec Street saw, on average, a 47% increase in people walking through the street each day. Our survey results also showed a 64% increase in self-reported wellbeing, confirming the health benefits of urban greening.
Success is in the details
Wild West End also targets specific species, with a range of measures identified for each. For example, bats are being encouraged back into central London by installing bat boxes and creating habitats for bat prey. Another of our target species, the rare black redstart bird, has already been spotted several times in the West End.
In Carnaby, the focus has been on drawing bees and other pollinators back into the locality by creating small areas of habitat that link to more significant green sites nearby. To date, 635 window boxes, 98 planters and 46 hanging baskets have been installed, each full of pollinator-friendly species. These initiatives provide a place for people to enjoy and connect with nature, as well as contribute to global efforts to restore the world’s population of pollinators.
Wild West End draws on input from its strategic partners, the London Wildlife Trust, the Greater London Authority and Westminster City Council, to ensure our programme aligns with London’s broader environmental initiatives. We work with local stakeholders, and in 2020, we created the Wild West End Business Improvement District (BID) network to further support the objectives of Wild West End. Our aim with the project has been to bring together people with a common purpose and facilitate collaboration, as well as highlight strategic opportunities and provide technical guidance.
A model for other cities to follow
We are playing a pivotal role in raising awareness of Wild West End. We ensure Wild West End news is communicated to a broader audience, crucial for promoting access to the newly created spaces. We run partner events, the Wild West End website and are active on social media, helping to engage local communities and encourage occupier greening projects. Critically, we aim to raise the profile of Wild West End nationally and globally and demonstrate how working in partnership can amplify the benefits of green infrastructure. Wild West End is a model for cities to follow and will, we hope, inspire other partnerships to come together and replicate this success story.
To find out more about Wild West end, please visit their website.
This would not have been possible without Arup’s technical expertise and understanding of our goals, which have been crucial to this ongoing project. ” Jane Wakiwaka Sustainability Manager, The Crown Estate