Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Greenwich Millenium Park


Tags: brownfield, community, development, energy, exhibition, forestry, generator, geometry, grid, grow, habitat, housing, lifestyle, London, lotsoflots, marsh, masterplan, plan, planning, planting, power, reclamation, repurpose, restoration, river, stadium, sustainable, Thames, trees, UK

Transforming a millennium exhibition into a sustainable community and park.

The Greenwich Peninsula was originally made up of agricultural fields, marshes and a large millpond, and was historically known as Greenwich Marsh. The area became heavily industrialized from the late 1880s onwards with gas and chemical works and a major shipbuilding yard. There was no green space left on the Peninsula by 1968 except the British Gas Playing Fields where the Sainsbury's and Comet superstores are now located.

From the 1970s onwards the Gas Works declined and marsh began to reappear on derelict land. English Partnerships bought the land in 1997 and set in place a massive regeneration project, which included bringing 121 hectares of neglected land back to life. This process included creation and restoration of parts of the riverbank, and the creation of the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park as a freshwater habitat.

The Greenwich Peninsula is one of the largest mix-used developments in Europe, covering over 300 acres. Michel Desvigne, a French landscape architect, was the lead designer. One sixth of land on the Greenwich Peninsula was given over to parkland and public open space. There are two main elements to the open space system. The Central, Southern and Ecological Parks are award-winning parkland. A 2.2 km of river walkway follows a portion of the Thames River. The whole park is constructed on reclaimed and decontaminated land.

In the central parkland, rows of Hornbeam trees were planted on a strict 1.5m x 1.5m grid. A series of flat, shallow terraces divide the park from the road. The park is interrupted by a terrace of industrial cottages and a pub called the Pilot Inn, which escaped compulsory purchase when the redevelopment land was being assembled. They divide the space into Central Park, to the north, and the less formal South Park, which is associated with Millennium Village and has views towards the Thames Barrier.

At the southern end of the Peninsula, the four acre Ecology Park has been developed in close association with the Millennium Village, an innovative private housing development. A variety of wildlife and bird species inhabit this park, which is open to visitors, school trips, and environmental education groups year-round. The village sets an example for sustainable living by cutting energy costs by 80% over conventional housing. The village generates its own power locally through the use of a CHP (combined heat and power) system in which an on-site prime mover (diesel engine or gas turbine) turns an alternator to produce electricity.


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Greenwich Peninsula: A Place Where You Can.

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