Bringing Nature Home – How Greystar & HTA transformed formerly private derelict industrial land adjacent to the Grand Union Canal into a vibrant, biodiverse, mixed-use neighbourhood with public realm at its heart

27 Dec 2021

The development will deliver seven new residential blocks which will ultimately provide a total of 1,965 new homes, all set within a network of green spaces. The scheme is a bespoke designed rental project and the largest new Build-to-Rent development in the UK. HTA were commissioned in 2016 to provide the landscape design across the masterplan.

The client, Greystar, understood the great importance of landscape and the role it plays in transforming identity and creating an immediate sense of place; unlocking complex problems, driving economic values and creating communities. The brief for this landscape-led design was to revitalise 8.64h by forging new sustainable connections and bring the public back into a previously cut off area of the canal.

Design Response:
The public realm has been designed to facilitate differing activities, with a generous central promenade for markets and pop up events, a water feature for interactive play, spill out spaces for cafes, a southfacing amphitheatre for performances or the everyday enjoyment of the waterside as well as smaller quieter spaces where people can enjoy a moment of respite from the busyness of everyday life.

To create a strong sense of place, the landscape treatment draws upon the canalside setting and its character. There is a crisp contemporary interpretation of the site’s industrial heritage using cor-ten steel, temple setts and granite as well as reclaimed materials such as large section quayside timbers, London stock brick and setts. The beautifully executed hard landscape is contrasted with soft textured planting to create an outstanding landscape that appeals to all senses.

HTA’s design forges new connections to the local blue and green infrastructure network with the installation of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge across the canal linking Greenford Quay to nearby local parks and amenities such as Horsendon Hill and the station encouraging sustainable transport and active lifestyles.

With over a 5m level change between the canalside and the first building, Tillerman’s Court, and clearance needed between the new bridge and towpath, ramped access was needed to create a fully accessible environment. Level changes maximise the canalside setting and provide a sequence of features which create an intuitive and easy to navigate landscape.

Sustainability & Biodiversity:
The project restores canalside wildlife corridors by establishing a native waterside scheme with riparian planting, pioneering trees and species rich meadows. This character is drawn into the centre of the development and carefully blended with more ornamental wildlife attracting species to create a structured transition with a prolonged flowering period, winter interest and high level of ecological value. Over 100 trees have been established using predominantly native species providing important habitat and mitigating the urban heat island affect through their canopy cover.

Material arising from the demolition works was reused on site to adjust levels and for subbases, setts were reused and benches constructed from reclaimed marine timbers, both reinforcing place and sustainably sourced.

Tillerman’s Court is modular in construction saving 26,000 tonnes of CO2 through minimising the use of concrete and by hugely reducing vehicle movements and waste. The square is constructed over a new energy centre for the District Heat Network providing sustainable energy for the new neighbourhood and the surface water drainage is attenuated on site before being discharged into the canal.

In summary, this beautifully biodiverse scheme revitalises a derelict industrial site. It opens up hitherto restricted land to repair the green infrastructure and nature recovery networks, encourage active and healthy lifestyles and help foster new communities.