Goodmans Fields, Aldgate, London by Berkeley Homes North East London
Shortlisted for Category 12 - Best Biodiversity Enhancement
Goodmans Fields is a vibrant mixed-use development located on a brownfield site in Aldgate, incorporating residential, retail and commercial space. The final section of landscaping, Chaucer Gardens, was opened to the public in September 2019, marking the completion of the development, comprising over 1,000 new homes, over 9,000 m2 of BREEAM Excellent rated commercial space, and over 9,000 m2 of new public open space at ground level.
The development comprises of courtyard blocks and towers arranged around a central Main Plaza animated with water features and public art, turning Goodmans Fields into a habitat of visual and soulful appeal while enriching the local area. The external areas are of high quality in terms of design, specification and installation, with stunning landscaping including a new public park providing some much needed green space and recreational ground to the local area.
Despite being submitted for planning in 2011, the successful enhancement of biodiversity on the site has been used to promote the Berkeley Group’s 2016 commitment to achieving a net biodiversity gain on all new developments. It is hoped that the project will demonstrate to the industry what can be achieved in terms of biodiversity enhancement on new build developments in dense urban areas, and how biodiversity can bring a new vibrancy to brownfield sites.
Aerial view of Goodmans Fields.
Goodmans Field is situated on a postage stamp brownfield site (2.83 hectares), just a short walk from the City and Shoreditch. The site is located within the area of Whitechapel and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The development occupies an existing city block, which was previously occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) building. The site also held underground storage units for diesel fuel and above ground storage tanks for small quantities of other chemicals.
Goodmans Fields forms part of a larger strategic area considered by the Aldgate Masterplan (2007) which noted that the previous buildings on the site offered no publically accessible spaces. In 2013 Berkeley commissioned the London Wildlife Trust to complete a survey of the site and surrounding area in order to inform the landscaping design and provide advice on how best to enhance biodiversity. The area was categorised as an ‘Area of Deficiency’ for sites of nature conservation importance.
The redevelopment of the site offered significant opportunity to transform the local biodiversity by creating new ecologically rich gardens, including both ground level public amenity space and secluded rooftop areas designed for specifically for wildlife. Through the site’s landscape design, Goodmans Fields aims to;
Provide a significant addition to the local public realm by providing a high quality, diverse, inclusive and sustainable series of contiguous open spaces.
Enhance wildlife habitats in urban areas.
Promote sustainable planting by developing planting designs that are appropriate for their location, including the availability of sunlight and water.
Improve the local urban biodiversity by selecting plants with known benefits to local fauna.
The masterplan for the development aimed to develop a network of new public spaces and pedestrian routes which weave into the existing fabric of the area. Giving priority to pedestrian movement enables the spaces between the buildings to be habitable public realm, and created additional opportunity to include biodiverse planting. 260 new trees have been planted as part of the development. Alongside the ‘green finger’ walkways, the development has delivered;
Four Seasons Garden (public amenity)
Main Plaza: Piazza Walk (public amenity)
Chaucer Gardens (public amenity, focussed on active play)
Living Roofs (4,653 m2)
Wildlife Sky Gardens (1,983 m2 intensive green roofs, protected for biodiversity, and including London’s only rooftop chalk meadow)
Internal courtyards within each block
Rooftop apiary (four hives, c.100,000 honey bees - UK native species)
Four Seasons Garden
This is an aquatic garden and naturalised garden of mixed ornamental planting. Ferns, shade tolerant grasses, flowering climbers, perennials, bulbs and marginal and aquatic species were carefully selected for the space. Fresh water habitats are ecologically rich, creating a biodiverse and tranquil environment, frequently enjoyed by members of the public from local offices in their lunchbreaks.
In the piazza the biodiversity enhancement has been linked with the site’s local heritage. Sitting at the heart of the development is a magnificent public art piece comprising of six giant bronze horse sculptures by artist Hamish Mackie. The horses hurtle in an arc through the piazza towards Leman Street, where the lead stallion rears up dramatically. Each horse weighs a tonne and over a kilometre of armature steel was required to build them. Berkeley commissioned the sculptures to bring alive the history of the site, where Mr. Goodman once leased out the fields for London's livery horses, as well as echoing London’s rich equine history and highlighting the profound relationship that a city built on horse-power has with this magnificent animal. Sloping amenity lawn, mature trees and evergreen shrub planting accompany these sculptures, along with benches to relax on.
Roof Gardens and Green Roofs
The roof space is a key feature enhancing the biodiversity value of the development, enabling the site’s small footprint to be optimised for biodiversity. While there were no specific planning conditions relating to the biodiverse roofs, Berkeley has utilised the roof space to create valuable ecological enhancements. All roofs areas are used either as resident accessible roof gardens, or living roofs (with the exception of areas required to house mechanical plant). These are a mix of extensive and intensive green roofs with varying substrate depth and drainage regimes to create a mosaic of microhabitats on and below the soil surface.
There are a mix of traditional roof uses including roof gardens providing amenity spaces for residents, solar panels on shade resistant sedum planting, and extensive green roofs, along with more innovative biodiversity features, such as four rooftop beehives, specific ecological features such as log and pebble piles, and two inaccessible intensive green roofs, designed in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust specifically as a space for biodiversity. These are known as the Wildlife Sky Gardens.
The ‘wet’ wildlife garden shortly after install.
Wildlife Sky Garden
The wildlife sky gardens were installed between spring 2016 and spring 2017 and are located on the North West Block of Goodmans Fields. They are made up of a network of biodiverse habitats which are not usually found on high-rise developments. The initial driver for the wildlife sky gardens was a need to achieve an ecological enhancement for BREEAM. As Berkeley had successfully worked with the London Wildlife Trust on another project, they were seen as the ideal partner to help achieve this at Goodmans Fields. The project team identified the roof spaces as an opportunity to improve local biodiversity by experimenting with the variety of planting and habitats and forming an ecological network with the accessible residents’ roof gardens and ground level public realm. A Species Indicator Report was produced using GiGL Ecological Data, which informed the design and specification of the 1,983 m2 allocated for these biodiverse roofs.
The gardens provide a number of new habitats for wildlife in a high density, urban area. The aim of the design was to create a space for local and migrating species to forage, shelter and breed, without interference from people or domestic animals. The gardens are split across two roof areas, each with distinct characteristics. The ‘dry’ garden incorporates habitats typical to the South Downs as the roof is likely to have a similar climate. It contains three different substrates;
Alpine brownfield - mix of low growing UK native perennials
Chalk meadow - mix of native wildflower and grasses
Dry acid heathland - heathers with native UK grasses and grassland perennials
The ‘wet’ garden contains pebble beds which collect rainwater, woodland planting, and large rocks providing shade, increasing the habitat area for insects and birds. Blue and yellow flowers provide forage for the four bee hives located on the adjacent apartment block roof.
Native tree species which are able to tolerate the exposed conditions of the roof, such as Hawthorne, have been used across both roofs. Multiple bird, bat and solitary bee boxes provide shelter for a number of species. These include local priority species such as black red starts, which are targeted in the Tower Hamlets Biodiversity Action Plan.
Once complete, the London Wildlife Trust were invited to review the gardens to confirm that they had been completed in line with the original recommendations. Reviewing the roofs they stated, “There are green roofs and then there are the Goodmans Field green roofs. These really are rather unique roofs for London” - David Mooney (LWT). A number of tours have taken place for both Berkeley staff and external visitors to raise awareness of the importance of creating new habitats for wildlife in London and to demonstrate how this can be done successfully on new build developments. This includes an Open House event as part of London’s National Park City Week in summer 2019.
Pollinators are important for maintaining biodiversity. The Goodmans Fields bees have had two successful honey harvests. The four hives are home to around 100,000 honey bees, a UK native species. They are cared for by Bermondsey Street Bees, an award winning sustainable beekeepers, located close to the site. The position of the hives on one of the lower living roofs was carefully selected, away from interference and to ensure suitable forage. During the construction process, the project team took part in charitable offsite planting at nearby homeless shelter, Providence Row. This increased the local forage available for the bees.