London's Streetscape Plan sharpens focus on healthy living.

Friday 3rd July 2020

The threat and menace of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the debate about the future design and management of our public realm in cities. As London begins its journey to what we expect to be a ‘new normal’ bolstered, hopefully, by a green recovery, the implementation of the Mayor’s recently published Streetspace Plan indicates a shift to a public realm network that supports and encourages active travel.  


Although initiated to enable swift and purposeful implementation of temporary schemes to enable social distancing as people begin to return to work, the Streetspace Plan anticipates some of the more permanent changes that had already been signalled in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which advocated the roll our of Healthy Streets and Liveable Neighbourhoods to improve public health. The pandemic has brought into even sharper focus the need for the future city to be designed to enable healthy living. 


Urban greening will be essential to ensure the permanent changes to some of the city’s streets don’t just facilitate more pedestrian and cycle-friendly mobility; creating greener civic spaces that connect existing parks or provide areas for relaxation and respite in a bustling city will generate a much wider range of benefits. That is why, in addition to the greening of streets we have introduced an Urban Greening Factor too in the new London Plan that will be published later this year. [See policy G5 Urban Greening, p.363] 


We are currently pre-occupied by the ongoing impacts of the pandemic; and rightly so because it still poses the most immediate threat to our lives and our economy. But accelerating the greening of our cities should not be viewed primarily as a Covid-recovery response; it is prudent preparation for the potentially more profound public health impacts of a changing climate.  


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Peter Massini 

Lead – Green Infrastructure Policy, Greater London Authority 




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