The Importance of Plants in an Urban Environment

During thirty years residency (yes, I know, bit of a long time!) living on the Golden Lane Estate, City of London, I and my family have enjoyed flowers and plants brightening up the place.

Plants have graced these areas since before 1987 (the year I first saw them). I cannot tell you when the first tenant put out a pot of flowers — but it is before living memory. They have ALWAYS been there.

The potted plants lovingly cared for by tenants and residents enhance the internal open terrazzo style cantilever galleries.

For many years these tiny container gardens have been actively encouraged by the council and estate management with annual ‘Best of Bloom’ judging competitions and so forth.

Flowers brighten the internal terrazzo cantilever galleries

The collection of plants have attracted butterflies, hover flies, bees and birds — a family of robins nesting and successfully fledging a brood beneath a neighbour’s Aloe Vera — blackbirds eating berries off a small shrub — and incredibly! — once, I even spotted a woodpecker.

A hover fly on a balcony plant

Community friendly

The plants make it a more pleasant space for some neighbours to sit awhile whilst reading a paper and sipping tea. Making it a community friendly environment.

A calm space good for mental health

Good for calm and mental health. Until…

Yesterday, at lunchtime, this notice was tied to the railings

Short Notice

All plants to be removed by the 16th

The notice was attached to the railings on the 14th and today (at the time of writing) is the 15th — which means that we have barely received 36 hours notice.

You are only permitted to keep a maximum of four plants by your flat

Why? Four? Why only four?

Why weren’t we informed earlier?

Or, have I missed something?

Has there been an official letter that I haven’t seen?

A consultation?

A leaflet?

Lack of communication

A forewarning letter or a consultation about ‘problem plants’ or a chat from estate management would have been polite — indeed, communication of any kind would have been helpful.

A knock at the door by someone from the Estate Office to chat, to explain, to reason why, or when, what or wherefore?

However, I do recall receiving a letter some months ago, that said that there would be consultation and talks in the future with residents with problem plants — I still await such a consultation.

Or is it just my household that has missed receiving any updating notification as to the change in the rules?

Please can any resident reading this who can enlighten me about information I surely must have missed get in touch with me?

Change of rules at short notice

To post such a directive on a weekday to remove plants within one and a half days is hard to believe! Residents who are away will not see the sign and return to find their plants are gone.

We, for instance, have to travel up to Yorkshire to see a sick relative this week…leaving zero time to sort anything out.

Health and safety

Last year, following the awful tragedy of Grenfell Tower, I understood when fire checks were made around the estate. In this case, residents received clear notification about safety concerns with valid points being raised regarding fire procedures — leaving gangways and exits clear etc. This, of course is correct and totally acceptable. We were, at that time duly consulted and received written notification. We also had a visit from the fire department who confirmed that the placement of our own personal plants were safe and presenting no fire hazard. Even so, at the time, we thinned back our greenery — taking down an established cascade of Chlorophytum comosum (spider plants) for example.

Are plants a safety hazard?

Understanding the need for health and safety we fully and whole heartedly cooperated with any requests and suggestions from the fire department representative who reassured us that our remaining plants were fine as they didn’t impinge on the required free access width to the walkway.

External redecorating

Then, came along the long overdue external decorating in 2018.

We were asked to remove our plants temporarily to a storage pen beside the tennis courts so that the painting could be done without hindrance. Fair enough.

Refugee plants in the holding pen

But, did residents placing their plants in the pen know that they were never to return to brighten their doorstep again?

Refugee plants are still in the pen today. To be held indefinitely?

People have loved and cared for these plants and spent a lot of money on them.

Under the pretext of ‘removing the plants temporarily’ to the pen while decorating was underway and then disallowing their return is underhand to say the least.

Living in an urban concrete environment situated at the heart of the City can be drab.

For me, flowers and plants help alleviate stress and gloom of living in an urban concrete environment — with the foliage and colour softening the stark nature of the estate.


Without the flowers the railings and blank doorways to each flat might suggest a likeness to the galleries and cells of the bleakest prison block.

“Make London Greener”

In a time when I receive regular emails from the Mayor of London urging us to do our bit to make London Greener — I find this deflowering of Crescent House astonishing to say the least.

What kind of regime now presides at the Corporation of London?—to overturn lifetimes of plants enhancing the internal galleries of Crescent House with a single stroke and a notice tied to the railings with one and a half day’s notice?

It is a heartless soulless act.

A note about Crescent House

The Crescent House cantilever galleries and staircases were designed by the Architects Chamberlin Powell and Bono who were influenced by the great Le Corbusier and his Unité D’Habitation.

The Crescent House built in 1962 is Grade II* listed.

Crescent House following the removal of the residents’ plants will have no green space of its own. A few flowering plant pots might not seem much — but to those who have no garden to contemplate upon — it is a ‘small green space’.

Bowling Green

It might be of interest to note that the tennis courts were originally a bowling green — perhaps the courts could be reverted back back to their quieter bowling green heritage and become a community garden and green space for Crescent House – also providing a permanent site for Golden Lane Baggers allotments and a quiet place to contemplate, bringing the community together.

The tennis courts were originally a bowling green

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