The eastern end of Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green, was a dead-end road with only one function – space for twelve car-parking bays. Despite the surrounding urban spaces being a hive of activity, the dead-end provided only an opportunity for anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.

John Ryan, CEO of the adjacent community and arts centre, Oxford House, felt that the space should and could be a more useful space for the local community so he teamed up with Greysmith Associates to explore the possibilities. Initially, options for temporary use of the space were considered with the intention of a pop-up garden being created. But awareness of the potential for the outside space grew and led to calls for permanent change. This evolved into a partnership between Greysmith Associates, Oxford House and the Local Authority, Tower Hamlets who had responsibility for the street and coincidentally had plans for a cycle lane to be routed through the space.

Ambitious proposals were prepared that sought to recognise the potential as an important node for pedestrians and cyclists – within a thriving network of streets, taking it from a non-location to a prime location. A small section of unused green space (within the adjacent park) was also incorporated into the scheme, offering connectivity as well as the opportunity to deliver on proposals for sustainable urban drainage (SuDS). Funding for the project was secured via a bid to the Mayor of London’s pocket park initiative – which was match-funded by Tower Hamlets.

The design incorporates the cycle lane, new seating, green-roof covered bike racks and bin stores, a rain-garden and a defined area for café tables and chairs. Bespoke planters that capture rainwater from the roof of Oxford House were designed and donated by Thames Water.

Tower Hamlets council and Greysmith Associates have managed to achieve technical innovation and true place-making in a finely balanced design that will transform our immediate outdoor space, opening up significant new potential for the local area where previously none existed”.

John Ryan, Chief Executive Oxford House.

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Location: Bethnal Green, London
Project Partnership: Tower Hamlets, Oxford House, Greysmith Associates
Attenuating Planters: Thames Water Utilities
Green Roofs: The Grass Roof Company
Contractor: Riney

Awards: Landscape Institute Awards 2015 – Design for Small Scale Development: Winner
London Transport Awards 2015 – Contribution to Sustainable Transport: Highly Commended