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Mayor Lutfur Rahman presides over the opening of the park.

Derbyshire Street “pocket park” officially opened

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, officially opened the new “pocket park” in Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green during a community event on Friday, 15th August.

The environmentally-friendly park has transformed a local eyesore into an asset everyone can enjoy. Residents have welcomed the new open space which they helped create – the first project of its kind in central London. Work started in Derbyshire Street in November 2013, straight after the bonfire night festivities in Weaver Fields, and proceeded quietly for several months, with the main works being finished in March 2014.

Situated in Derbyshire Street, behind Oxford House, the pocket park has turned a dead end section of public highway – prone to fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour – into a wonderful, sustainable, connected and usable community treasure.

The park incorporates the latest Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS), meaning that rainwater is soaked up by the green areas and does not go into the combined sewer system. The highly innovative project is the first scheme in central London to use such a variety of SuDS technologies.

The scheme uses six Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) elements: rain gardens; permeable paving; small scale green roof shelter; a swale (a water harvesting ditch); attenuating rainwater planters (these were donated by Thames Water Utilities); and Stockholm tree pits Other innovative features in the park are edible herb containers, green roof shelters, habitat panels and an area for potential outdoor seating.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “It is amazing the transformation that has taken place here in Derbyshire Street. There has been real innovation shown in the use of space, planting and street furniture to maximise the sustainability of the area. I hope the people of Bethnal Green cherish their new small, but perfectly formed, park.”

The park uses wildlife-friendly planting and furniture with habitat panels along the park for mining bees and insects to nest and the gabion benches provide small niches for insects.  The planting is nectar-rich and uses a variety of native plants. The attenuating planters are planted with edible herbs for use by all.

Cllr Shahed Ali, Cabinet Member for Clean and Green, said: “The park is a good example of strong partnership work between the community, the Council and the GLA. I am proud of what has been achieved here in Derbyshire Street and it shows other authorities the extent that sustainable urban drainage systems can be worked into a community space to be enjoyed by all.”

John Ryan, CEO of Oxford House, said: “My office looks out over Derbyshire Street and six years ago I used to look out and see parked cars and fly tipped rubbish and wanted to change it. We have worked hard with Luke Greysmith and Tower Hamlets Council to develop the beautiful space we have today; one that can be used by Oxford House and the community as a whole.”

The park has also improved routes and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, with a through lane to Weavers Fields creating a quiet, new alternative route to the busy market area in Bethnal Green Road. Work has been carried out to widen Derbyshire Street further down from the pocket park, to allow room for cyclists and vehicles. The park area itself is equipped with cycle sheds.

The park has been created by a partnership involving Oxford House, Greysmith Associates, The GLA, Thames Water and Tower Hamlets Council. Pocket Parks are part of the Mayor of London’s initiative “London’s Great Outdoors” – a programme to improve streets, squares, parks, and canal and riverside spaces across London. The Pocket Parks initiative aims to deliver 100 new or enhanced pocket parks.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, makes it all sound heavenly. The official bumph explains that pocket parks are small areas of inviting public space for all people to enjoy, providing relief from the hustle and bustle of the city. These spaces should have trees and greenery; they should be open to all; they should have places to sit and relax and for people to come together; and they should contribute to making the city friendlier, greener and more resilient. Hidden behind this beautiful rhetoric is the fact that Tory Mayor Boris Johnson supports cuts in public spending which have left many London Councils unable to maintain and develop parks and public spaces as much as they would like. Again, Tory Mayor Johnson is trying to claim the credit for restoring a little bit of what his Government cut a lot of.

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