Central London’s first rain garden unveiled in Victoria

Headline Date 24-04-2015

Friday April 24th sees the launch of an innovative green infrastructure project with the unveiling of the John Lewis Rain Garden situated at the main entrance to the UK leading retailer’s head office at 171 Victoria Street, London SW1P 1BX.

The John Lewis Rain Garden is the result of a unique collaboration between the Partnership and the Victoria Business Improvement District (BID) working with Westminster City Council to transform a 75 square metre formerly cobbled site into new green space. It has been designed by Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture at the University of Sheffield with The Landscape Agency to create a sustainable drainage solution to tackle surface water flooding and make better use of rainwater. It is designed to be an attractive living feature enjoyed by everyone using Victoria Street, as well as visitors and staff entering the Head Office. The project received funding and support from the Mayor of London’s Greening the BIDs project and Natural England via the Cross River Partnership regeneration agency. Over 30 plant species have been selected for their attractiveness to pollinators and for being able to cope with the UK’s changing climate. They include Rudbeckia, Kniphofias, Asters, Acanthus hungarlcus, Bergenia ‘Overture’, and Brunnera macrophylla  ‘Jack Frost’. Five large planters have also been replanted as part of the scheme.

The idea stems from the Victoria BID Green Infrastructure Audit, published in 2010 that identified opportunities to enhance existing green space in the Victoria BID’s 110-acre footprint and to create new green space for the benefit of people and wildlife. A legal agreement was established between John Lewis Partnership and Westminster City Council covering the rain garden site that straddles ownership boundaries. The volume of water diverted to water the plants will be measured.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman John Lewis Partnership said: The John Lewis Rain Garden is a great innovation in keeping with the values of our Partnership, both in helping the environment and making a visual improvement to our local area. Like all Partners at our head office, I will be glad to see the rain garden as I arrive at work and be pleased to know it is performing a useful purpose the next time there is a downpour!”

Ruth Duston, Chief Executive Victoria BID said: “This is a ground-breaking project as a rain garden situated in a very prominent position in Victoria London SW1. Victoria has been prone to disruptive surface water flooding in recent years, and this initiative developed by the Victoria Business Improvement District working with the John Lewis Partnership marks a new business partnership in creating vital green infrastructure into the area that is a strategic objective of the Victoria BID.”

Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s Advisor for Environment and Energy said:  “London’s status as a green city is being boosted by increasing numbers of innovative green measures like rain gardens and green roofs, which can help increase resilience to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and improve air quality, as well as improving the look and feel of the city. The John Lewis rain garden is a fantastic example of what can be achieved even in the most densely developed parts of London.”

Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture University of Sheffield designer of the John Lewis Rain Garden with The Landscape Agency said: “Rain Gardens are one of the most exciting concepts in landscape architecture and garden design. They are small-scale designed features that capture rainwater runoff from buildings, pavements and other hard surfaces, and which then temporarily store, clean and slowly release that water back into the soil or drainage system, using the power of plants and soils. They have great potential for creating beautiful, multifunctional landscapes, rich in biodiversity, in even the most built-up of urban areas. The John Lewis rain garden is the first one to be made in Central London and we hope it will be an example for others to follow – it is an example of what needs to be much more common as we adapt our cities to the challenges of climate change.”

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