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London to gain new garden in the sky, as the Camden Highline gets green light

Planning approval has been granted for the first section of the Camden Highline, running from Camden Gardens to Royal College Street. It will see the transformation of a section of disused railway into a new elevated urban park for London. The project is now set to offer much-needed green space to underserved communities, while creating a new global attraction for London, akin to New York’s High Line.

In total, the Camden Highline will run for 1.2km, connecting the existing visitor appeal of Camden Town with the emerging destination and transport links of King’s Cross, and helping to knit together neighbourhoods around them. The elevated public walkway is forecast to bring new local green space for 20,000 people, along with health and wellbeing benefits worth £10.9m over the project’s lifetime.

The community initiative, which started out as a crowdfunding campaign, is the culmination of public engagement that has taken place over the last four years, with lead architects – and designers of the New York High Line – James Corner Field Operations, local architecture practice vPPR, the Camden Highline team, and community engagement specialists Street Space.

To date, 1,600 people have been on a walking tour of the route, 300 people have taken part in volunteering activities, more than 1,000 people have donated to the project and the charity has delivered 1,000 hours of education workshops within local schools.

Now that planning permission has been granted, as well as keeping up fundraising momentum, the Camden Highline charity is looking for major donors to come on board to support with the £14m cost of the first section of the project, and get construction work underway.

The Highline is set to increase the ecological value of the site, and boost Camden’s biodiversity. The planting, headed up by renowned garden designer Piet Oudolf in close consultation with London Wildlife Trust, is inspired by woodlands, productive gardens, meadows and ancient British hedgerows, and will take visitors through a series of distinct ecosystems and experiences.

Each section of the Highline will differ in character, in direct response to the different neighbourhoods, contexts, and conditions through which it travels, to give a true reflection of Camden’s unique identity. Interactive design features, including a children’s play zone, volunteer-run allotments, and an outdoor classroom, will come together to create a sense of urban exploration and discovery, while balconies will connect the park to the urban street life below.

An architectural screen, programmed with nesting sites, greenery and trainspotting windows, will run the length of the park, separating it from the active rail line, while offering a coherent design language to the overall route.

The access points to the park, at Camden Gardens, Royal College Street, Camley Street, and York Way, will be fully accessible, with a potential fifth additional stair at St Pancras Way. Section one, from Camden Gardens, will be reached via a transparent scenic lift or stairs that take you through a tree canopy onto a floating gantry, offering unique views over the park and of the Victorian railway viaduct.

The project is set to be built in three sections, beginning at Camden Gardens to Royal College Street, then east to Camley Street, and finally to York Way. The project is expected to bring with it 200 construction jobs and 116 new long-term jobs.

The Camden Highline feeds into a broader stepping up of efforts to introduce more green spaces into inner-London neighbourhoods and reconnecting Camden Town, King’s Cross and Euston to each other and their surrounding neighbourhoods. It’s the centrepiece of an overarching public realm strategy, the Camden Green Loop, which will connect Camden’s key landmarks and existing green spaces via public pathways to create walkable 15-minute neighbourhoods, as well as strengthening London’s profile as one of the world’s leading visitor destinations.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan comments: “The Camden Highline has captured local imaginations. It urges us to broaden the horizons of what’s possible within our cities and is exactly the sort of innovative, environmentally sustainable, and community-driven project which will continue to benefit and inspire generations to come.

“This vision will also bring huge enterprise opportunities to local small business, helping to build a better, greener, and more prosperous London for everyone. I look forward to following the Camden Highline on its journey and to walking in London’s own park in the sky.”

Lead designer, James Corner of Field Operations comments: “Camden is a unique and vibrant place and we’ve designed the Camden Highline to embrace this special character. It will serve as a green connective thread, biodiversity corridor and a community amenity. It will be budding with opportunities for arts and culture, and an essential space for young people to examine and learn about nature. Camden Highline is an extraordinary urban project and exactly the type of forward thinking, inclusive project that might help to bring us together in trying times.”

Lead architect, Tatiana von Preussen of vPPR comments: “I live and work within a few hundred meters from the Camden Highline and I see it as local walk you can do with the family, joining up the canal and Coal Drops Yard into a single loop. It would be a place to go and bump into friends, forming a central spine of the community. A small section of it threads through the private residences of Camden but the longest part of it serves a number of housing estates and parts of London which don’t currently have any access to local green space. I’m very excited about how the Camden Highline will bring Camden together through a beautiful, shared asset.”

CEO, Simon Pitkeathley of Camden Highline comments: “To go from a Google Earth printout, sellotaped together on our table, to now a real designed thing with planning permission is amazing. I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has come with us on this exciting journey, particularly the design team, who have done an incredible job, and all the donors who backed us through the riskiest stages of the project. We’re now shovel ready, but need your help to continue the momentum and raise the money to deliver this amazing park in the sky.”

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