Does London have a greener future?

24th February 2020
Green cover map for London (GLA, 2019)


Urban Greening Factor – Does London have a greener future?

The global population is becoming more urbanised as the years go by.  To accommodate this buildings have risen to new heights; something that brings both benefits and challenges to ecology. Compact spaces that are built high allow for better public transport and reduce the number of cars on roads, however buildings are often built at the expense of city green space.  In London the protection of green spaces, and development of creative and innovative ways establish new ones, is of paramount focus.  The City of London has recently received a report that recommends the implementation of an Urban Greening Factor (UGF) scheme.  In this blog Outerspace will discuss what this is and what this may mean for the Landscape Architecture industry and the people of London.

What is Urban Greening Factor?

The Urban Greening Factor (UGF), as set out in Policy 5 of the Draft New London Plan aims “to increase the quantity and functionality of green infrastructure in the built environment, by assessing development projects submitted for approval”.  In essence UGF is a toolbox that allows planners to evaluate the amount of urban greening that a new scheme will provide and help them make decisions around how much greening is required.

UGF uses a scoring system to allow developers to calculate how much greening they are incorporating in their development. This system gives each surface a score factor, for example an extensive green roof would be 0.7, tarmac and similar sealed surfaces would score 0 and trees (within a minimum soil volume) would score 0.8.  This is them multiplied by the area the particular surface covers (m2) added to the other area calculations and divided by the overall area of the development to give a final score.

A simple example:


So overall score (31.2) divided by total surface area (80) = 0.39

Individual London Boroughs are able to develop their own targets for the level of greening they aspire to reach; however the London Plan recommends a target score of 0.4 for developments that are predominantly residential and 0.3 for those that are predominantly commercial. The Landscape Institute blog has some really good examples of applying the calculations to plans and a fuller explanation of the scores for different surface types.

London is not the first city to adopt an UGF approach and the cities where it has been adopted, such as Berlin, Malmo, Washington DC and Helsinki, have seen increase the amount of green space within developments, as well as an increase in multi-functionality, particularly with respect to surface water drainage.

How might Urban Greening Factor affect Landscape Architects?

UGF is likely to give a boost to the Landscape Architecture industry in London, requiring developers to take on specialist advice, in relation to green infrastructure, earlier so as to meet planning requirements.

Drawing focus on the importance of green infrastructure also helps to highlight the skills and expertise of Landscape Architects. We have a wealth of knowledge which, when brought in early, can help building contractors, architects and project managers to develop successful schemes.

And how might Urban Greening Factor benefit people who live in London?

Urban Greening Factor is already proving to be an invaluable framework for the development of urban areas across the world, with Berlin, one of the early pioneers of UGF, now one of the greenest cities in Europe.

The London Plan envisages using UGF to ensure that there is adequate green infrastructure in all new developments. This will be especially important in densely developed areas and regeneration schemes.

By encouraging the development of an ever growing network of green spaces, street trees, green roofs and wetlands London Borough planning officials will help to promote healthier living by encouraging walking and cycling, improve air and water quality, mitigate urban heat island effect and enhance biodiversity and ecological resilience.

In the words of Merrick Denton Thompson OBE, “People want to be reconnected with nature and they want to transform underused land to produce clean air and clean water, good microclimates and good food. They recognise the urgent need to capture carbon and to create landscapes teeming with wildlife. At the same time, they want to be protected from flooding and want access to land for health and wellbeing. The landscape profession is best placed to deliver these aspirations — it is what the profession is qualified to do.” Green Infrastructure – An integrated approach to land use  Landscape Institute” (2013) cited in Cities Alive, Rethinking Green Infrastructure.

If you have read any of our other blogs you will know that Outerspace is passionate about the interaction of humans and nature.  As such we feel that legislation that encourages greater greening and greater biodiversity is a good thing.

Written by Kate Kershaw, Practice Manager