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A wildlife vision for National Park Cities

By Siân and Jon Moxon

We were delighted to take part in the National Park City Foundation launch in October, as a winner of their design ideas competition to Imagine London as a National Park City.

We presented our vision for London, “Rewild My Street”, which highlights the role private gardens could play in making the capital greener and better for wildlife.

The National Park City Foundation is a new charity (chaired by the Forum's Steve Head) set up to bring the vision and Aims of Britain's National Parks to the management of urban green space for wildlife and peopler.  The goal for London to become a National Park City has been included in the mayor’s Draft Environment Strategy, which aims to make over half the capital green infrastructure and increase its tree cover by 10% by 2050. Gardens are vital to meeting these targets, but inspiration and guidance are needed to help homeowners maintain them in a way that contributes effectively to a network of greenspace. Our mission is to help provide this.

Rewilding urban streets

We advocate that the ethos of rewilding, which restores rural ecosystems to a state where they can sustain themselves, be applied to urban areas for the benefit of wildlife, people and communities.

If you take a typical London residential street and adapt its terraced housing, gardens and streetscape to transform it into a haven for wildlife, the street will come back to life. The bees will be buzzing, the birds will be singing, the frogs will be hopping and the owls will be hooting. The changing seasons and the pattern of day and night will be seen from every living room. While children growing up on the street will have nature on their doorsteps.

We want to stop the trend for paved-over front gardens, felled street trees and synthetic lawns. Instead, let’s bring back real greenery and real life. Every small change could add up to make a big difference.

Just by adding wildflower meadows, patio ponds, bird boxes, feeders and insect hotels, we could see wildlife return in droves. By opening hedgehog holes in  fences to link up back gardens, we could form wildlife corridors connecting to local parks.

While addressing the alarming decline in biodiversity, greener streets would improve air quality, and lessen urban overheating and flood risk associated with climate change. Londoners would benefit from improved health and wellbeing through better access to nature.

Gardens cover almost a quarter of London and existing housing will remain with us for years to come. For a lasting legacy, we must enable these forgotten spaces to accommodate nature, turning the whole city into a National Park to make future generations proud. Rewild My Street will do exactly this.

Making it happen

Our ideas are not radical, but they could be transformative. We need people to join us to help make them happen. Rewild My Street could be launched with a website, along with a show home and street, demonstrating measures that residents and councils can implement to achieve a Wild Garden or Wild Street award.

The effect could spread to adjacent streets and inspire parallel projects, including Rewild My School and Rewild My Workplace. It could also influence other cities, being applicable to any urban area.

As architects and academics we are always keen to turn our ideas into built projects and ground-breaking research. We would like people to get in touch with any ideas about how we could work together to disseminate and realise our vision for urban housing and gardens.

Siân Moxon, Senior Lecturer, The Cass School of Art, Architecture & Design
Jon Moxon, Architect, The Pattern Project
s.moxon@londonmet.ac.uk
www.thepatternproject.co.uk