ENTRY #254

The Low Line by Better Bankside

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The Low Line is a simple idea – to work in partnership with local residents, businesses and community groups and Network Rail to reinstate the common spaces that run along the base of the viaduct, connecting London Bridge with Waterloo stations through a traffic-free route. Historically the viaduct that extends between these two stations has contributed to the segregation of the urban interior at Bankside from the active river edge.

The route which runs adjacent to the arches, once provided easy pedestrian access across Bankside. Over the last 150 years this has been eroded, as development, both planned and informal, has built walls and fences, buildings and other structures blocking access along its length.

The Low Line will stitch these disconnected spaces back into the urban fabric, through a range of large and small projects that will transform the public realm, and support appropriate and creative uses into the rail arches along the route, to bring economic, social and environmental vitality and encourage footfall and exploration deeper into the neighbourhood.

The floor area of the arches in Bankside totals approximately 250,000 sq ft, most of which is closed off from the public. Traditionally occupied by car parking and storage it is now increasingly occupied by a range of independent gyms, restaurants, bars and studios – supporting a variety of employment uses.

The Low Line is developing a strategy that allow for the creative and sensitive regeneration of the arches, coupled with an ambition to bring creativity and vitality to the public spaces that run along the base of the viaduct.

‘As the entrepreneurs who originally built the railways knew, railways don’t just move people and freight, they also generate and spread prosperity…’ Towards a Better Railway 2013. The Low Line will do just this, but in a sustainable way.

The Project Team

1. Better Bankside: represents 600 businesses in the Bankside area, who are committed to making Bankside the best neighbourhood in the world. Better Bankside currently coordinates the project, and is developing a partnership bringing the relevant stakeholders together to realise the ambition of the Low Line initiative.

2. Bankside Neighbourhood Forum: brings together residents, businesses and local charities to develop local planning policy for the neighbourhood. It was through this process that the Low Line as a project came to life. Their role is to ensure that the Low Line remains relevant to the local communities who live and work along its length.

3. Bankside Urban Forest: is a partnership of organisations and people working to coordinate improvements to the network of streets and spaces across Bankside. They will oversee the project management of projects, and focus on fundraising to deliver different parts of the Low Line over the coming years.

4. Network Rail: is the landowner of the rail viaduct and the arches within them. Their role in realising the Low Line is to adopt a placemaking approach to regenerating their estate. Network Rail are already engaged in the idea of the Low Line – our challenge now is to realise it!

5. Southwark Council: is the local authority for the area in Bankside that the Low Line traverses. Their role is to help realise the ambition of the Low Line through embedding it in land use and transport planning policy, and to help practically deliver the public realm elements of the project.

6. Gort Scott Architects: are a leading young architectural practice based in London known for their expertise in working within the complex urban environment. Their involvement builds on their earlier work on understanding the Low Line through their Voices in the Urban Forest project.

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