Monthly Column By Jim Biddulph
The pandemic has affected us collectively in myriad ways, but one of the positive realisations that we can garner from the experience is the desire, even need, for open spaces, fresh air and a connection to nature. Having been given permission to do so, people grabbed the opportunity to be outside and in nature with both hands, not least in urbanised areas. City parks were often almost full to the brim with people and the trend, whilst slightly reduced in comparison to the newly found freedoms of summer 2020, has continued.
In pre-pandemic UK, ‘green’ spaces felt like more of an ideal than a must when planning future infrastructure, particularly in cities and large towns. Over the past decade, plenty of theories have been drawn up and suggested for cities around the premise that all major amenities should be accessible by foot or bike within 20, 15 and even 10 minute. It’s now been firmly registered now that one, if not more, of those handy 15 Minute City amenities should be large green spaces. Residents of Utrecht in Holland are set to gain a belt of unbroken greenery around the city with the introduction of the Ringpark and Milan has led the way in vertical forests for the last decade or so.
But, thankfully, plans for a new park in Wembley suggest that things are slowly starting to change here too. Although, believe it or not, it will actually be the neighbourhood’s first major park in 150 years – which is surely testament to its very necessity.
Union Park is set to offer a 7-acre green space at the heart of developer Quintain’s multi- billion-pound regeneration of Wembley Park. Having already integrated pocket parks and water features throughout the neighbourhood, the park will now become a destination in itself and include a children’s paddling pool, outdoor training equipment and cultural spaces for performances and public art. As Cllr Shama Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning at Brent Council explains it’s, “a key feature of our transformation plan, carefully designed to ensure our residents and visitors have an abundance of space to relax, play, exercise and reconnect with their natural surroundings.”
And of course, the creation of green space also helps nature to thrive in itself, and the plans have one eye on helping biodiversity too. Wild meadows, bug hotels and plenty of water have been included in the plans and they’ll help insects and that in turn support bird and small mammal populations. What’s more, culture has been considered too, with a bandstand being erected for live music and theatre events and public art installations in the pipeline. I for one can’t wait to visit!