Landscaping: Don’t bother if not maintaining

Look at those shiny renders. A big new multi-million pound scheme is to be finished with some lovely landscaping and greenery. This will look amazing.

Fast forward two years; a few sorry weeds lie half-trodden among a sea of litter.

Yep, regeneration in action in many places.

I’ve seen it a few times particularity in the last week which inspired this post. Last week in Stratford I was on the High Street looking at the area seven years after the Olympics. It was a bit of a mess:

Courtesy Google

Later in the week in Abbey Wood I passed the 2015 Sainsbury’s, which was looking very scruffy:

Not great:

I’ve covered similar issues in Woolwich when they tried landscaping there. As a mile of similar landscaping was being removed just to the east on the road from Plumstead to Woolwich this went in – and lasted about a year:

Green central reservation lasted a year

No one maintained it:

So out the window it went. A few grand wasted. But if at first you don’t succeed, just keep on failing.

More of this is planned on Harrow Manorway in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead. It will likely look a mess within weeks.

Trees and greenery in central reservation

The site is an odd one. The borough boundary between Bexley and Greenwich runs right down the middle. Greenwich have maintained the entire street since the 1970s – yet current work is being carried out by Bexley. Who will maintain it after is an unknown.

The roundabout put in place three years ago was already looking pretty scruffy.


And this gets us onto Greenwich’s pocket parks schemes. There’s lots to like – yet many comments on consultations are wary as to whether they’ll ever be properly maintained.

Probably not if other areas and the local area are a guide. These tiny areas – which are mostly dead or full of weeds after being ignored – are not going to be great habitat spots.

As I covered this past weekend, plant boxes (now doubling as bins) are common around the area:

If iareas won’t be maintained, then you may as well cut to the chase and not bother with landscaped greenery in certain areas. Would it be better to use hardstanding materials or grass which can easily be maintained? It’d save the inevitable high cost to alter them in a couple of years.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “Landscaping: Don’t bother if not maintaining

  • At Canary Wharf LDDC gave consent for landscaping in Canada Square saying it would continue to be maintained. When they closed down it defaulted to LBTH – and the cost of the maintenance was more than the entire budget for the rest of the Borough. I don’t know what happened next – but it is a good example of the problems caused by unaccountable development corporations., I am aware of examples in East Greenwich put in by the Greenwich Development Corp pre 2000 – cheap, badly installed and with no arrangements with the Borough on the future. Could list out terrible things in detail – looked lovely for 6 months..

  • It’s long been the case. More than 30 years ago we lived next to Lewisham station, with the Tesco store for a neighbour. When Tesco built its store, in the place of a derelict Whitbread depot, it promised to tart up the street. It did, but no one thought about maintence.

    Fed up with the squalor outside our house, my wife phoned Lewisham council — turned out one department had approved the so-called landscaping (planning I assume); parks (or whatever) had the job of keeping the plants up to date, but with no budget from Tesco; but no one was responsible for removing the litter from the flowerbeds.

    Just no one had thought about it.

    And, three decades later, no one has learned from the experience.

  • The system is deply corrupt. Not only developer’s funding but in particular all the poltical pots of ‘challenge’ funding – the Mayor, TfL, Charitable Trusts, MHCLG – for public realm schemes. The funders want good publicity shots – their honchos smiling in front of the brand new pristine planting. The landscape architects who design them likewise want portfolio opportunities – clever and visually attractive plans and photographs of the brand-new schemes for their practice portfolios. Council cabinet members likewise are often over fond of a photogenic personal appearance.

    But once the big wigs and cameras are gone, under resourced street cleansing staff with little horticultural experience are left to care for it – with few tools other than litter pickers and strimmers. Generally when the weeds get too high and overwhem the expensive nursery plants they strim everything down to the topsoil, losing all the original planting. Then self-sown grass seeds take over. You can’t blame them.

    If the powers that be were really concerned, they could easily put those unspent millions of s106 and CiL into a fund in perpetuity to pay for maintenance – but you may find that if you offer those who make the decisions the choice between a practical and simple scheme that can be maintained but isn’t worth posing against or a bling photogenic scheme that will degenerate after the publicity shots have been taken, too many will still opt for the latter.

    • I’m confident that there are many communities in Greenwich that would jump at the chance to improve the environment they are living in. Could the council not initiate a scheme which recognises local residents who volunteer to tend to the gardens? Currently, even if they were to do so (through so-called “guerilla gardening”), there is a high risk that the council would just come and strim the whole effort down to the ground, as Digger has mentioned.

  • Pingback: Will the new Lee Rigby memorial be a PR disaster? | From The Murky Depths

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