Transformation of London’s first public park gets planning approval

Plans to turn London’s oldest public park into a “haven for people and wildlife” have been given the green light.

The two-acre Grade II listed Finsbury Circus Gardens, which dates back to 1606, is the Square Mile’s largest park.

Designs for an ‘urban forest’ in the west of the park, skirted by a new oval-shaped pathway, were backed by the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee.  

A new 100-capacity pavilion café, nestling in a ‘secret garden’, will boast an open frontage and terrace overlooking a lawn, while the park’s Grade II-listed drinking fountain, dating back to 1902, will be retained.

Built of low carbon concrete, with natural materials including Portland stone, the pavilion will sit within relandscaped gardens amongst new paths, planting and seating.

The design team - Hackney-based Architecture00 + Studio Weave (00SW), are partnering with ReardonSmith Landscape to support with delivering the scheme.

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said:

“These designs will transform Finsbury Circus Gardens into a haven for people and wildlife right in the heart of the Square Mile.

“As we recover from the pandemic, City workers, residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a new oasis of peace, quiet and greenery, which is accessible to everyone.

“Working with 00SW and ReardonSmith Landscape we’ll deliver a biodiverse park for the 21st century which at the same time respects the historic nature of the site.”

A spokesperson from Studio Weave said:

It has been a great pleasure to work with the City of London Corporation on this scheme. The proposal's civic infrastructure and public space is exactly what we, as Londoners, aspire to.

"With the climate crisis in mind, this building has a minimum 100 year life span. To stand the test of time, we are using sustainable structural Portland Stone – following a great London lineage."

"Sitting within the Finsbury Circus Conservation area, the garden is listed on Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens and has been owned and managed by the City Corporation since 1812.

The plans will increase biodiversity at the site and new sustainable drainage systems will reduce the risk of flooding in line with the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy, which aims to support the Square Mile achieving net zero carbon status by 2040.

The garden reopened to the public in August last year with a temporary lawn after being closed for a decade to allow Crossrail to work on a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street.

The City Corporation protects over 11,000 acres of open space in London and south east England – including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest – and over 200 smaller ones in the Square Mile, investing over £38m a year.

They remove an estimated 16,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 44% of the City Corporation’s annual carbon footprint.

These sites, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They include important wildlife habitats, Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation. 

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –

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Kristina Drake

Media Officer, City of London Corporation