Leven Road Gasworks, A Landscape Designed With A Nature Led Vision

A CGI view of the proposed riverside development at Leven Road

BMD was commissioned in 2017 as Landscape Architect to work on a visionary residential led mixed-use masterplan for St William (part of the Berkeley Group). This uniquely placed development occupies 8.3ha of land along the river Lea in Poplar, East London on the site of the former Leven Road Gasworks and will deliver 2800 homes.

Before the gasworks, which formed an iconic backdrop to the river from 1876, the River Lea was originally flanked by extensive wetland and marshland. The marshland was part of the Bromley Marsh, remnants of which still survive on the northern banks today.

This unique location, in such an urban part of East London, gave us a real opportunity to design around the River and the Living Landscape of the wider Lea Valley, plugging Leven Road Gasworks in to an existing network of ecological habitat, landscape and wildlife.

BMD's nature led vision for the project, in collaboration with masterplanners JTP and the London Wildlife Trust, identified four deliverables to help underpin the design development:

  • Conserve and enhance the existing and historic river character
  • Provide net biodiversity gain across the site
  • Consider how best to integrate the existing community with the proposed development
  • Connect the wider community with the river for the first time

In order to integrate the site with its urban context, the site broadly splits in two. The southern half of the site was designed with more of a gridded street format, aligning with the wider urban grain and allowing space for an interesting set of harder yard spaces and public squares. The northern half of the site was looser, referencing the river and the site's marshland heritage.  We used landscape as the connection, linking the river back to the wider community through a brand new riverside park and the use of sculpture, play on the way and walking routes flanked by trees and wildflower grassland to frame views.

The scheme provides:

  • Nearly 60% of the site as open green space and new habitat, connecting with remnant marshland along the River edge and important ecological sites along the wider River Lea valley.
  • The inclusion of a 1 ha public park and new river edge footpaths and cycleways. Running and walking routes combine with wildflower grassland, kickabout space and look outs across the river, encouraging the new and existing community to explore the river and wider footpath network.
  • New wetland bordering the river to the north. The introduction of reedbeds, bioswales and attenuation ponds enhances the site for birds and invertebrates as well as filtering contaminants before discharging back to the river
  • Over 5000m2 of formal play, in addition to the park, including both formal elements and areas for nature inspired informal play on the way
  • Sections of the largest gasometer retained and incorporated as a sculptural mascot at the gateway to the river park.

As a highly urban site, with a lot of challenges around the integration of community, Leven Road Gasworks is the result of great collaborative working between the client and design team and the invaluable input and commitment from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It's a scheme which seeks to promote social and healthy living as an integrated part of a nature led design, creating a long-term legacy for both people and wildlife.

Shortlisted for 'Planning Permission of the Year' as part of the Planning Awards 2020.

For more information about Leven Road Gasworks click here.

Date published: 11 Jun 20

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