Breathing new life into neglected spaces

Golborne Road BridgeWay back in 2006, when I was Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the Environment, we set up the North Kensington Environment Project to tackle what some people called ‘grot spots’.

The term referred to areas, varying in size, character and ownership, that were underused or neglected and because of a lack of care had become a magnet for litter, graffiti, fly-posting – all of which cast a gloomy shadow over the surrounding areas.

On the face of it, the term ‘grot spot’ was a rather unfortunate one for the people who lived in the area. But there was nothing ill-judged about the project’s ambitions to enhance and improve neighbourhoods.  Starting with a modest initial investment of £150,000, we set about working with partners and land owners to target eyesores and give them a facelift – in the process greening neglected patches of ground.

We established a pocket park on Elkstone Road and at the corner of Kensal Road and Ladbroke Grove; created a wildflower meadow on Acklam Road and turned a disused tennis court into a thriving community kitchen garden at St Quintin’s Avenue, which last year was named allotment of the year runner-up by London in Bloom.

And we did not confine our efforts to gardens, the Ladbroke Grove mainline railway bridge and the Golborne Road rail bridge were definitely looking their age and the worse for wear.

Built in the early part of twentieth century to span the Great Western Rail route they were badly in need of some TLC. Both received a 100th anniversary makeover, starting with a deep clean, to remove the years of fly-posting and graffiti before they were repainted, new lighting installed and minor repairs were carried out. The work was well received by residents; over 650 people took part in consultations to choose designs for the bridges.

We are not finished yet. Next in line for a spruce up is Ladbroke Grove London Underground bridge. Its panels will be replaced in autumn after Carnival.

We did not stop at the bridges; we also turned our attention to the road junctions under the Westway – which were dark and unfriendly places. All have had a refresh, new lighting has been installed as well as new pavements and there have been other streetscape improvements.

Each of these projects has been quite modest and self-contained, but the sum total of all the work is greater than any of its parts.

Transforming an area by improving the physical appearance breathes new life into the surroundings. The iron rail bridges which once created an air of foreboding now provide an attractive and bright entrance to North Kensington. In a way they mirror, albeit on much smaller scale, the elegance of the bridges over the Thames in the south of the borough.