‘Swap concrete for flowers and herbs’

Plan to turn grey to green by re-imagining unloved public spaces

Friday, 4th March — By Charlotte Chambers

Cllr Champion and volunteers from Octopus and Elizabeth House Community Centre mark the launch of Islington Greener Together-1

Cllr Champion and volunteers from Octopus and Elizabeth House Community Centre mark the launch of Islington Greener Together

PICTURE the scene: a beautiful, calm green space where children can play and adults can stop and talk. No, not your local park but the road outside your front door.

That’s the plan if Islington’s latest scheme to “re-imagine public spaces” captures the imagination.

Environment chief councillor Rowena Champion wants residents to “turn grey to green” with the Town Hall offering assistance to swap unloved patches of concrete for flower beds, orchards and mini herb gardens.

As part of the scheme, people could also apply to turn their car parking spaces into planters, which Islington would pay for and insure. This was first pioneered in the borough by residents of Mayton Street in Holloway.

Cllr Champion said: “We want to do what makes the most difference, quickly. I’m not ruling anything out – we absolutely want people to come forward with their ideas.”

Pointing to a lack of drainage in Islington due to overdevelopment, Cllr Champion said “there’s an imperative” to change the face of the borough.

“We have to make ourselves greener because otherwise there’s surface water, there’s flooding. We absolutely need to be doing this,” she added.

Other plans to green the borough include launching the Islington In Bloom gardening competition this year to encourage local groups and individuals to garden, and planting up to 600 trees to improve “canopy cover” which already blankets a quarter of the borough.

Residents from Highbury Quadrant estate were one of a number of different people getting their hands dirty on Wednesday at the Islington Greener Together launch, along with volunteers from nearby community centre Elizabeth House and volunteer organisation Octopus Community Network.

Julie Parish, from Octopus, celebrated the burgeoning garden, calling it an “amazing reimagined brand new community space” that “could and should be replicated across the borough”. She called on people to “get to know their neighbours” and get gardening.

The application deadline to submit ideas for a greenspace is April 29.

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