Disused Camden railway will be transformed into eco ‘garden walkway’

A blooming garden walkway above the streets of London is the latest initiative in a blizzard of eco-friendly projects planned for roll-out across the city.

The capital has one of the highest levels of air pollution in the UK and efforts to introduce more green spaces have been stepped up.   

A team has now set the wheels in motion to transform three-quarters of a mile of disused railway line 26ft above Camden into a ‘park in the sky’. 

The architects behind New York’s famous High Line have been drafted in to design the walkway, which has been endorsed by ministers and the Mayor of London.

Equally ambitious plans were this week unveiled for a green post-pandemic redevelopment of Oxford Street – including a massive 82ft hill – which has the dual purpose of coaxing tourists back to the West End this summer.

The Camden Highline too hopes to breathe life back into once vibrant tourist hubs made sleepy by lockdown.

But even before the crisis a raft of eco-projects had been drawn up across London to boost the capital’s green spaces.

London is set for a blizzard of post-pandemic projects that both revive tourism and bolster the city’s green spaces

A disused railway line above Camden is set to be transformed into a garden walkway in the style of New York's famous High Line

A disused railway line above Camden is set to be transformed into a garden walkway in the style of New York's famous High Line

A disused railway line above Camden is set to be transformed into a garden walkway in the style of New York’s famous High Line

This latest green project in London's eco-drive will turn three-quarters of a mile of tracks  (pictured) turned into a 'park in the sky' that stretches across the trendy borough toward King's Cross

This latest green project in London's eco-drive will turn three-quarters of a mile of tracks  (pictured) turned into a 'park in the sky' that stretches across the trendy borough toward King's Cross

This latest green project in London’s eco-drive will turn three-quarters of a mile of tracks  (pictured) turned into a ‘park in the sky’ that stretches across the trendy borough toward King’s Cross

The New York High Line, also on a former train track, allows walkers to stroll above the metropolis and is a favourite with locals and tourists

The New York High Line, also on a former train track, allows walkers to stroll above the metropolis and is a favourite with locals and tourists

The New York High Line, also on a former train track, allows walkers to stroll above the metropolis and is a favourite with locals and tourists

London cooling: Green project in the capital

London’s urban forest: Increase tree canopy cover in London by 10 per cent of current levels by 2050

Ripple Nature Reserve & Greenway (Dagenham): New 2.3 kilometre ‘greenway’ walking and cycling route. 

Queen’s Cresent, Camden: Transform high street with trees, ‘rain gardens’ and green spaces.

Plumstead High St, Greenwich: High street improvement project to provide play space and opportunities for resident gardening.

Nourish food hub, Hammersmith: A new green community food hub and affordable workspace across two estates in Hammersmith & Fulham.

ShedX, Kingston: Create a community growing hub in Tolworth including mobile green sheds to act as meanwhile uses for local greening, discussion, problem solving and storytelling, and creation of ‘natural paths’.

Silkstream Valley Parks, Barnet: Helping to reduce flood risk by naturalising the river banks, opening up views and access to the river and enriching biodiversity.

Brent River Park: Transforming 18 hectares of underused and disconnected green space between Greenford Town Centre and Gurnell Leisure Centre 

Albany Park River Restoration: Naturalising up to 350m of Turkey Brook on the northern edge of the park, currently a man-made channel with concrete walls, by excavating a new naturalised channel that brings the river into the park. 

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If approved, the Camden Highline will begin in Camden Gardens, a five minute walk to Camden Town Underground, and head towards King’s Cross.

For two years the team have conducted a feasibility assessment to ensure the project will not disrupt live train lines.

A competition was held to get the ideas of locals but no designs have been rubber stamped and the planning is still in an early phase.  

Camden Highline will now spend the next 12 months putting together concrete design plans based on consultations. 

Planning permission has not yet been granted – and the £35million expected cost still needs to be funded – but there have been positive noises from Government. 

It is being designed by James Corner Field Operations, the architect firm behind the version in the Big Apple and also parts of the Olympic Park.

The New York High Line, also on a former train track, allows walkers to stroll above the metropolis and is a favourite with locals and tourists.   

James Corner, the lead architect of the Camden Highline, said: ‘Camden is such an extraordinary place, a vibrant, hip, and diverse community that will soon enjoy an amazingly unique, public green thread that ties its various communities together in ways both revelatory and transformative.

‘We could not be more excited to work with residents and stakeholders to create a one-of-a-kind elevated park along the viaduct that speaks to the magical symbiosis of nature, culture, arts, and community.’

Camden Highline chief executive Simon Pitkeathley added: ‘Every time we reach another milestone, I find myself thinking that I can’t believe we’ve come so far so quickly.

‘Something that started as a bit of a mad idea is now going to be designed by a team of the finest people we could ever have hoped to work with. I cannot wait to see their ideas unfold and be put into practice.’ 

The aim is to connect neighbourhoods, increase local access to green space, and entice tourists back to the capital.

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A competition was held to get the ideas of locals but no designs have been rubber stamped and the planning is still in an early phase

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Planning permission has not yet been granted – and the £35million expected cost still needs to be funded – but there have been positive noises from Government

Concept ideas for the Camden Highline reveals an  ambitious project that could include a woodland area and view spots (artists impression, right)
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Camden Highline will now spend the next 12 months putting together concrete design plans based on consultations

City Hall has earmarked a number of other green initiatives, including London’s urban forest which aims to increase tree canopy cover in the capital by 10 per cent by 2050.

A new 1.4-mile ‘greenway’ walking and cycle route for Dagenham is also in the pipeline to ‘provide healthy, safe routes to school and access to nature’.

Other similar eco projects are underway in Greenwich, Hammersmith, Kingston, Barnet and Brent.  

Since 2016, more than £13million has been spent on greening projects and more than 280,000 trees planted. City Hall claims over 400 hectares of green space have either been created or improved.

Green projects are also being wrapped into wider initiatives to revive the capital’s beleagured tourism industry after lockdown is lifted.

Earlier this week Westminster Council unveiled plans for a £150million development of Oxford Street to coax tourists back to the West End this summer.

The centrepiece will be the ‘Marble Arch Mound’, an 82ft-hill that promises Londoners sweeping views for six months between summer and Christmas. 

Subject to planning approval, they believe the hill will be climbed by 200,000 people, who will likely have to pay a small nominal charge.

No exact cost has been calculated, although a spokesperson said it will run to ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’.

Politicians in the past have touted extravagant green projects for London – including Boris Johnson’s ill-fated plans for a Garden Bridge across the Thames.

Dubbed the Marble Arch Mound, it will tower at 82ft and promises Londoners with sweeping views for six months between summer and Christmas (artist's design)

Dubbed the Marble Arch Mound, it will tower at 82ft and promises Londoners with sweeping views for six months between summer and Christmas (artist's design)

Dubbed the Marble Arch Mound, it will tower at 82ft and promises Londoners with sweeping views for six months between summer and Christmas (artist’s design)

Minister for London, Paul Scully, said: ‘It’s fantastic to see a slice of the Big Apple coming to London, with the creation of a new park in the sky in Camden inspired by the New York High Line.

‘The Camden Highline will not only create some welcome additional green space in central London for local residents to enjoy, but cement Camden’s place on the map as a top tourist attraction – providing a welcome boost as we build back better, and greener, from Covid-19.’

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, commented: ‘Camden Highline has the potential to become a really important new asset for the local community in Camden and people across the capital.

‘This is exactly the sort of innovative, environmentally sustainable and locally-driven project which could make an important contribution to London’s recovery from the pandemic. I really look forward to seeing these ambitious plans take shape.’ 

The Government is placing greater emphasis on environmental issues as it prepares to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

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