An MA Landscape Architecture student at the University of Greenwich, gives us her perspective of the Peckham Coal Line.

    The impact of New York’s High Line has rippled far beyond the Hudson River. Cities across the world are clambering around, desperate for their own version of the celebrated elevated linear park.

    Amongst the controversy of the Garden Bridge in London and the high-tech proclamations for the Lowline in Chicago, is the Peckham Coal Line. The project has recently been in the media spotlight, so I went along on a walking tour as part of the Open House London 2015 weekend to see what all the fuss was about.
    As a landscape architecture student in London, I am fascinated by the role that a participative or user-driven approach to the production of space can play in a city of such contestation. Such an approach challenges the traditional role of a landscape architect who, more often than not, comes to a site as an outsider, presents their ‘solution’, and walks away. In a project like the Peckham Coal Line, the landscape architect becomes more of a facilitator of process, rather than a creator of design.
    The Peckham Coal Line is to be a 900m-long linear park that runs on disused coal sidings alongside the railway line. The new urban park will connect the communities of Queens Road and Rye Lane, providing a much-needed retreat for pedestrians and cyclists from the areas’ congested roads. Regeneration in recent years has brought many changes to the diverse communities in Peckham, and it is hoped that the Peckham Coal Line will spread some of these benefits more evenly, as well as attracting new visitors to the area.
    The Peckham Coal Line began as a university project for Nick Woodford, a mature architecture student at Central Saint Martins. The project has now very much left the hypothetical confines of the university studio, and becomes more of a reality with every passing day, with the help of a small team of volunteer professionals.
    The team have had a busy year, negotiating with Network Rail, carrying out community consultations and events, and launching a crowdfunding campaign. The group aim to raise £65,000 in order to carry out a feasibility study, examining how the Coal Line will be built, as well as engaging residents, businesses, schools and commuters in further workshops. The campaign has already raised over 55% of this target, including a £10,000 pledge from the Mayor of London.
    The local community has guided the design of the Peckham Coal Line from the outset. The depth and commitment to inclusive participatory design was evident as I was expertly guided along the route by one of the volunteers. The designers have considered how to draw crowds to areas currently blemished by anti-social behaviour, navigated residential sites to ensure parking spaces aren’t lost, reconnected busy streets to forgotten parks and nature reserves, and explored ways for creating new spaces for local businesses under the railway arches.
    The group are also casting their eyes further afield, in order to link up to other areas of green infrastructure in south London. There is an ambition to provide an uninterrupted green ribbon from Peckham all the way up to Rotherhithe, where Sustrans is proposing a new walking and cycling bridge over the river to Canary Wharf.

    The project will be leading another walking tour of the Peckham Coal Line on October 10th.

    Find out more information and how to donate to the crowdfunding campaign.


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