Islington Greenspace adaptation measures
Housing estates in Islington pose a huge opportunity to tackle climate change whilst also improving the quality of our residents’ lives. This can be achieved by changing the way the open spaces are managed and increasing access to and contact with the nature which is on residents’ doorsteps. This bid would enable the council to provide open spaces that deliver similar benefits to that of a quality green space such as those in our public realm.
There are two broad areas that can be looked at for improvement, and can be defined as existing open space and new spaces.
Existing open space
The measures proposed will adapt the open spaces and also improve the quality of existing open space for both residents and wildlife. There are a number of small scale projects that can be taken forward to help us meet the targets set out in the Boroughs biodiversity action plan, Homes for Islington’s Sustainability Strategy and meet the needs of local residents:
Developing wildflower meadows on existing lawn areas
By creating wildflower meadows, it is possible to create an area that will be attractive to both people and wildlife and that will be more resistant to climate change. This is achieved by improving the visual aesthetics of a space and making better use of under utilized areas, they can save money from estate contract works as they cost less to maintain. Relaxing the mowing regime of designated areas on estates will also have biodiversity benefits by creating long grass meadow areas.
Planting of trees for shading
With global temperatures set to rise as an effect of climate change, urban areas such as Islington will be worse affected. Shade will become increasingly important in rising temperatures to help us adapt and minimize the health problems associated with a warmer climate. Trees will play a crucial role in this and they will also help mitigate against rising carbon emissions. Providing increased levels of shading will increase opportunities for residents to continue to use this outdoor space during the warmest parts of the year. The provision of more trees on estate grounds will also provide invaluable habitats and food sources for birds. The planting of trees can also contribute to a community’s sense of place and will be considered for all improvement schemes.
Shrub and tree planting for wildlife
The landscaping of estates can be multi-functional in terms that it provides screening and noise insulation, in addition to ecological and aesthetic considerations. The planting of bluebells, ramsons and snowdrops can be added to the under-storey of deciduous species, providing attractive colours for residents and acting as a good food source to invertebrates. Planting of hedges is important as these provide natural nest sites for birds and green corridors for mammals such as hedgehogs to move about more easily.
Installation of artificial nesting sites, feeding stations and other ecological features
The provision of nest boxes both within estate grounds and on buildings can contribute to the engagement of the local community in the form of community workshops, providing a sense of ownership and raised awareness as well as contact with the natural world. The boxes will provide significant biodiversity enhancements. Feeding stations provide invaluable supplementary food source particularly where berry producing shrubs are scarce. Feeders can be designed to be squirrel proof and can be adopted by residents who can refill them without the encouragement of squirrels and pigeons.
There are a number of estates that have limited existing open spaces, but have the potential to create new or extend existing open spaces. There are a number ways that this can be done to contribute to strategies for adapting to climate change, improve the quality of residents lives, and benefit biodiversity.
Creation of new landscaped areas
The amount of tarmac surfaces can be reduced by creating new landscaped areas. These new areas will help reduce the urban heat island effect and will contribute to achieving greater sustainable urban drainage. For example by using permeable paving water is allowed to enter natural porous zones in the ground; this also assists in filtering out of pollutants.
There is huge potential to utilise all areas on estates, from transforming concrete areas, disused planters and raised beds into allotment spaces for residents. By providing allotment spaces we will be providing residents an opportunity to produce there own food and empower them to take over management of certain areas of an estate, which in turn will lead to greater community cohesion. Allotment and wildflower spaces will contribute to enhancing biodiversity on estates as well as towards developing sustainable communities.
Greening of existing structures
In areas where it is difficult to implement schemes that require more space, green walls can be created using climbing plants. Vertical concrete areas can be transformed into attractive spaces that improve aesthetics for residents and provide habitat for bird and invertebrate species. These green walls can also provide benefits in the way of discouraging anti-social behaviour such as graffiti and providing security, which is particularly true if thorny climber species are used. Another way to enhance biodiversity is to incorporate green roofs on to new structures or retrofit to existing ones. Green roofs have benefits that are threefold which includes providing habitat for various invertebrates, reducing surface runoff and heat island effect helping mitigate against climate change, and finally improve the quality of residents life’s by creating visually stimulating spaces that had previously been grey and barren.
All of the above projects both on existing open space and new spaces will provide opportunities for residents to become more involved in the care of their estates and strengthen community cohesion, they also provide opportunities to empower residents, through gaining new skills.