Lessons from the green oasis of London’s Isabella Street


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Lessons from the green oasis of London's Isabella Street

Posted 2 September 2009 21:53 by martin

Take a look at this (excuse the blurriness):


Sort of scene you could find in most UK cities.

Boarded up railway arches. Hard grey surfaces. Bit desolate. An unappealing environment for a pedestrian – even if it is traffic-free.

But if you turn 180 degrees you see this:


And then this:


And this:


Hang on, how did a grey corner of Southwark in London suddenly become Barcelona?!

It's a brilliant bit of urban transformation.

Someone pretty visionary saw that if you really invest in plants you can change even the most unpromising alley into somewhere that's vibrant and attractive.

And while those plants (and their upkeep) must cost a pretty penny, think of the increased revenue the cafes and restaurants are pulling in through the extra outdoor seating they've created.

I think it's a really interesting example of private enterprise – small(ish) businesses, not a huge developer – taking the initiative and transforming a public space. As far as I can make out, Isabella Street is a public right of way – it's never gated off and you can walk down it any time of the day or night.

Admittedly, there's a London effect here. The climate is conducive to this sort of thing, and being in central London, there's a lot of money sloshing around to help make it stack up financially.

But surely this model could work, perhaps on a smaller scale, in cities all over the UK?

Old railway arches + traffic-free environment + plants + food and drink = great place to be.

Maybe I'm being a bit starry-eyed. Do you think this could work where you live? Maybe you know some other examples?

Waterloo to Isabella Street (7 mins)

London Bridge to Isabella Street (18 mins)

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