Reinvigorating an existing park and creating connections to the nearby canal.
Our work at Bartlett Park in Poplar focused on improving the leisure and ecological offer provided by this area and connecting it to the adjacent asset of the Limehouse Cut canal. It was vital that the new park would accommodate the needs of the wider community.
The existing park lacked any form or function beyond open grass and two football pitches. It contained limited planting, no play areas and an inadequate network of entrances and paths which were in poor condition and often had no destination. Despite a few schools surrounding the park, there was little use by young people.
We were first selected by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to deliver an existing pre-planning design based on several years of consultations. However, initial discussions quickly saw the scope change to re-work the masterplan and improve proposals. This meant incorporating a number of features, such as new changing rooms, a dog walking area and outdoor gym. The redesign provided an opportunity to create a new strategy for tree cover over the next 50 years and delivered a significant uplift in biodiversity for the park.
It also included engaging residents and formulating a flagship inclusive and accessible play provision for the borough, which now sits at the heart of the scheme. Designed with all abilities in mind, it features step-free connections to its surroundings, which includes the revitalised canal towpath.
The Limehouse Cut canal is a major asset to the local area but was underutilised. Before works began, the canal was disconnected from the park by Cotall Street, existing high railings and 2m height differences between the canal towpath and road/park. Users of the canal or the park were often not aware of one another.
We removed sections of the towpath wall to introduce access steps (with cycle ramps) and ‘ghat-style’ seating steps. Closing and pedestrianising Cotall Street has created a new civic space which provides opportunity for community events and street markets, an enhanced hub for existing community facilities, and a physical and visual connectivity between the canal and park.
Key to the success of Bartlett Park is planting – not only for the enjoyment of visitors, but also to help combat the effects of climate change and enhance the biodiversity value of the area. With over 130 trees planted, a varied selection of planting mixes to suit local micro-climates and several thousand square meters of wildflower planting introduced, the feel of the area has been completely transformed.
We have created a series of interlinking spaces and facilities where all people, no matter their age or background, can enjoy a variety of physical activities, including sport, exercise and play, alongside more passive pastimes, such as picnics, walking and observing wildlife. The real success of the masterplan has been the broad spectrum of new park users encouraged into the park, including watersports on the canal.