• London’s High Line gets off the mark

Plans to convert an unused railway viaduct into a linear park in Peckham have taken a step forward, with the appointment of consultants to take the project forward.
Architects Adams and Sutherland, who have previous experience including the Greenway around the Olympic Park in Stratford, will design the project. Their consultancy team includes Arup, Rider Levett Bucknall, Counterculture Partnership and JCLA. They were selected from 19 submissions to a design competition, launched in January by the Friends of the Peckham Coal Line.
The plan will turn the 900 metre long former coal siding into a linear park with cycle path. It aims to connect two south London high streets, Queens Road and Rye Lane. Say the organisers: “The Coal Line is also a way of connecting people, whether that be traders benefitting from greater numbers of visitors, or creating and building on networks of local community groups. Peckham has a heritage of grassroots activism, in influencing planning projects and turning disused spaces into cultural destinations. We see the Coal Line as part of this tradition.”
The project has won the support of both Southwark Council, and Network Rail. And a crowdfunding campaign has to date raised more than £75,000 from over 900 supporters.
The community project aims to connect areas it says are currently disconnected by heavily trafficked roads and poor pathways, “the regeneration of leftover infrastructure”. The aim is to create a walkway and cycleway that is also a dwell space; for cyclists, it could help create a largely car-free route from Brixton to the Thames.
The hope is that grants, foundation funds, lottery funding and other capital sources will be tapped to help fund the project.
While the organisers of the Coal Line campaign have distanced their aspirations from that of the New York High Line, there are parallels in that both are high level linear park concepts, using derelict railway infrastructure above the streets. The hope is that it will, in the same way, gain sufficient support to see the light of day.

LPA Perspective: The supporters of this project have demonstrated impressive momentum and focus in getting their ideas to this stage. It is to be hoped that the momentum continues, but the omens appear to be good, as the concept has widespread support and, it appears, nobody against the plans or trying to drape its progress with red tape. Local authority Southwark has lent financial support, while it also has mayoral backing.
However, the real challenge will not be funding the feasibility studies or initial design, but getting the funds together for the construction of the project.
In New York, the comparable High Line was taken over by the city authorities, once its supporters had developed the plans. Its owners gifted the property to the city. And today, it is zoned as a public park, with its running costs and maintenance covered by the city. But despite the largesse of public authorities, the friends of the project still had to draw together $44 million in support.
The experience in New York has also shown that shining a light on a district by delivering such an imaginative project can also provide plenty of other spin-offs, including new developments along the route. Could the Coal Line be linked with other transport initiatives or regeneration projects in the area?

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