Recreating flood protection in transforming area to include multi-functional public space to stimulate regeneration of a deprived area
Beam Parklands is a 53-hectare park in east London and part of the legacy of the Ford factory. It is on the floodplain of the River Beam, a tributary of the River Thames, floods regularly and is one of the most deprived areas of the UK.
Between 2009-2011, the Land Trust took over the site and transformed the area, recreating its primary role of flood protection: the park can store up to 45,000m3 of water. In addition to flood storage, the Land Trust and local authority wanted to provide a high-quality, multi-functional public space for the local population to stimulate regeneration of this area; the park provides recreation and education opportunities, enhances the local environment amenity, and contributes to the conservation of important habitats and wildlife. It is also part of the growing All London Green Grid. The footpaths and bridges have been designed to withstand flooding and the habitats present are able to cope with flood events.
The park was largely neglected in the 20thC due to a derelict smallpox hospital which closed in 1989. This area had become a magnet for anti-social behaviour and there were low levels of accessibility for some nearby communities.
The Land Trust is an independent Charitable Trust that manages open spaces on behalf of, and in partnership with, local communities. The Land Trust acquired Beam Parklands on a long-term lease from the former owners the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and the Environment Agency.
£1.5m ERDF funding to improve flood storage
£250,000 Veolia Cleanaway Trust
£500,00 Environment Agency
£175,000 Big Lottery Fund Natural England ‘Access to Nature’ grant
Long term maintenance funded by an £1.9m endowment from the Homes and Communities Agency’s Parklands Allocation.
Evidence of success
Flood storage capacity increased to 450,000m3
570 homes/60 businesses protected
£600,000/yr iflood risk benefits
£800,000/yr benefits to local community
New bridge linking community
1000+ residents at community events
500 children in educational activities
Local community involvement to create local asset
Extra 12 hectares for biodiversity
Winner of 2011 CIWEM Living Wetlands/Brownfield Awards
Natural capital account asset value £42m exceeding maintenance costs of £1m
• Although significantly reduced, there are still ongoing problems with anti-social behaviour and vandalism within the park.
• Due to the flood storage uses of the site, there is occasionally standing water present in the park. The health and safety issues of this need careful managing.
Potential for learning or transfer
The case for creating, increasing or enhancing green infrastructure is made stronger when the economic and social benefits can be demonstrated in addition to the biodiversity and other environmental benefits. The flood storage role of Beam Parklands not only improves the resilience of a vulnerable community to the impacts of global warming it also has a Natural Capital projected asset of £41m excess over maintenance costs.
This exemplar of green infrastructure redevelopment shows how an area designated for flood storage purposes can be designed so that it also delivers biodiversity and community benefits, and can contribute to improving the social cohesion of an area. In this case, particularly noteworthy is how the creation of a new link between two previously-segregated communities has hugely improved social relations and reduced crime rates. This, and the reduced flood risk to neighbouring land, has increased the investment value of the area, bring immeasurable economic benefits
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