A green wall on a public builiding in London VIctoria creating a nicer environment for workers. Photo: Steve Cinderby

In the Victoria district of south-west London, a group of local businesses planned, in 2012, to improve the urban space by introducing more green-roofs (roof top spaces for plants), green-walls (vertical gardens), tree planting and garden spaces. These improvements were aimed at increasing the spaces for nature in the city thereby increasing the range and quantity of species that inhabit them. The planting also aimed to reduce flood risks by slowing the flow of rainwater into the local drainage system, improve the local climate and make the area more attractive for workers, shoppers, visitors and residents of the area.

As well as these direct changes to the buildings and streets the hope was that by improving the spaces for nature, local people would become more aware of the natural environment and the impact they have on it.

This project specifically investigated for the Victoria district scheme what impacts the improvements have for the businesses, workers, visitors and residents by looking at these different groups knowledge and behaviour before the planting occurred and after the improvements happened.

For businesses SEI looked at the current numbers of customers visiting and then a year later asked again to see if there have been any increases. This helped to understand if improving green spaces helped local economies by making them more appealing for customers. The project also looked at the current environmental policies of local businesses to see if they changed over the year.

For the people working in the Victoria district a smart phone ‘app’ was used, together with an online survey, to look at their wellbeing and morale over the year by asking them how they are feeling. From this information it was possible to evaluate if the changes to the built space to encourage nature also have benefits in improving workers sense of wellbeing.

For visitors to the area including shoppers and tourists the research looked at their reaction to the planting to help us understand if changes improved the way they felt about and use the space. For people living in the local area, they were asked whether the increased greenery changed their attitudes to where they live? Furthermore, the research looked to see if this influenced other decisions they made about what to buy and how they live that also benefit them, their health and the wider environment.

Finally the project looked at further improvements residents, workers and business leaders would like to see happen next in Victoria district.

The project aimed to understand what other benefits improving the spaces for nature in our cities brings for the economy, the people who live and work in urban spaces and the wider environment. The findings were intended to guide decision makers (including politicians, builders and retailers) looking at understanding ways of improving spaces for wildlife in cities by helping to identify, through an actual scheme, the most effective changes they could make in terms of these additional benefits for people.

Partners: London Metropolitan University
Duration: 15 month, May 2012 – August 2013