Camden Council has signed off plans that will see greenery cut back at Whitfield Gardens public open space in what the local authority says is an effort to save money on maintenance and stamp out public nuisance.
It is only eight years since Whitfield Gardens on Tottenham Court Road was last refurbished but everything apart from the nine mature London plane trees is to be ripped out in yet another spree of capital expenditure. Yet there will be little in the way of money available to look after the heavily used and abused public park.
In March 2011 Fitzrovia News reported concerns about maintaining the planted areas in the newly refurbished public park. Those concerns continue.
Camden says the new design — which will see greenery cut in favour of more hard surfaces — is an essential part of its West End Project masterplan to transform the Tottenham Court Road area and make the public space “clean, attractive and safe”. The scheme has been shaped by “secure by design” principles — also known as “hostile architecture”.
Whitfield Gardens is cleaned by Camden contractors Veolia, who empty the bins and sweep the paving, and idverde who are responsible for plant maintenance and removing the rubbish that piles up in the green areas.
Residents and business groups have criticised idverde for failing to perform to a satisfactory standard and have complained about the amount of rubbish that builds up over months.
However, after the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association pressed the parks team on the specification of the cleaning of the green areas, Camden admitted that the annual maintenance fee paid to idverde is less than £1,200 a year.
The FNA says the maintenance budget should be “at least ten times that” for such a busy public open space that is used by thousands of people each day.
“This is a heavily used public open space and it needs cleaning in proportion to its use and abuse,” says the FNA.
The design for Whitfield Gardens is part of a package of “public realm improvements” approved this summer and includes a design for a new public park at Alfred Place, and also Princes Circus on Shaftesbury Avenue.
In the West End Project Green Spaces Detailed Design Report, published in August, Camden says that over 150 comments were received in response to the public engagement on the initial plans.
“In general terms the designs were well received; 38% of comments were positive, only 10% were negative and the rest were neutral or mixed,” states the report.
The work at Whitfield Gardens is due to take place this December and be completed by the end of April. A timetable for Alfred Place and Princes Circus will be announced next year.
Update 1 October 2019: West End Project – Green Spaces updated designs. The is article was also corrected to state “secure by design” not “safer by design”.