Londoners urged to 'come out and enjoy' seven new public spaces alongside Thames

The architect behind the biggest creation of new open public space alongside the Thames for more than 150 years has said her “inspiration” is opening up the river to more Londoners.

The completion of London’s super-sewer after eight years of construction work will be accompanied by seven new pocket parks and plazas along the riverbank.

Major construction on the 23ft wide Thames Tideway tunnel - designed to massively reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing directly into the river - is due to wind up this summer, when test runs begin, before it is fully connected to the capital’s network by 2025.

One major legacy of the £5billion project is the string of new public space stretching from Putney in the west to Tower Hamlets in the east and covering three acres in total.

It is thought to be the biggest development of its kind since Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed the original sewer system in the 1860s after the “Great Stink” of 1858.

View from Victoria Embankment
View from Victoria Embankment

Lead architect Clare Donnelly, a director of leading London practice Fereday Pollard, said: “The biggest inspiration is that the Thames is London’s largest open space and we want people to come out and enjoy it.

“We want to make that public realm as enjoyable and as enriching for people as it possibly can be.”

The first of the new spaces launched in Putney in September - and was completed for the start for this year’s Boat Race. The others will all open to the public in stages over the next 18 months.

Second off the drawing board this month will be a site at Chelsea Embankment, designed to reflect the style of the Royal Hospital, which it sits directly in front of.

View looking east at Blackfriars Bridge
View looking east at Blackfriars Bridge

The space has artwork by Florian Roithmayr and a feature that Tideway calls an “intertidal terrace”, where Londoners and tourists will be able to dip their toes in the Thames.

This will be followed by the remaining five locations marking sites of historical importance beside the river.

Ms Donnelly told the Standard that each of the seven new public spaces “will be responsive to the place and the people that are in and around each site”.

“The project is about celebrating the history and changing face of London; how it has grown around its waterways was a big inspiration,” said Ms Donnelly.

“We’re trying to evoke memories and mark important places in the evolution of the Thames and how the city has grown around it.”

View from the air Heathwall Pumping Station
View from the air Heathwall Pumping Station

The project is a homage to Bazalgette, whose sewers on the Chelsea, Victoria and Albert Embankments, ran beneath beautiful public parks that changed the face of the waterfront, later becoming separated from the Thames by busy main roads.

Each plaza will feature works of art, lush greenery, spaces to stroll and sit and take in views of London.

The other new spaces are at Heathwall Pumping Station at Nine Elms ,Albert Embankment, Victoria Embankment, the Blackfriars Bridge foreshore, and an extension of the King Edward Memorial Park in Tower Hamlets.