Stockwell Street – University of Greenwich Green Roof London

Stockwell Street Roof Garden, at the University of Greenwich, is a teaching resource for the MA and BA Landscape Architecture courses
Stockwell Street Roof Garden, at the University of Greenwich, is a teaching resource for the MA and BA Landscape Architecture courses

The University of Greenwich’s Department of Architecture and Landscape, in Stockwell Street has extensive green roofs, used as follows:

  • about half the area is designed as roof gardens (‘intensive green roofs’) and are accessible to landscape architecture students and staff for teaching and research. The roof gardens have an expanding plant collection, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, hedges, lawns and ponds. There are views of Greenwich Hospital, the Cutty Sark and Greenwich Park. It is a delightful place. Access is restricted because local residents do not want their houses and gardens to be overlooked. Their wishes are understandable but, if the site had been developed for residential or commercial use (which was the most likely type of development for many years) there would have been much more over-looking.
  • the other half of the Stockwell Street roof  area (‘extensive green roofs) has  a shallower depth of soil and lower safety barriers. It is used solar panels and as an experimental area for testing different sedum-related seed mixtures.

See alsoGreen living wall research at the University of Greenwich

Tom Turner

4 Comments on “Stockwell Street – University of Greenwich Green Roof London

  1. I very much doubt that had the building been residential it would have been given planning permission for roof gardens as the borough UDP doesn’t allow for them, especially in a conservation area and National Heritage site – the university roof gardens were an exception as it was seen as a teaching and research area for limited numbers with a rigid management plan agreed at consultation.
    The architect’s original approved drawings included a double fence design that stopped overlooking by removing line of sight, but to the dissapointment of the residents this was changed as a non-material planning discharge. Enforcement can still demand that the balustrades move back by 350mm but the residents allowed them to keep it where it was as long as they came up with an effective screening solution.
    The new university is a commercial building and very often the residents and their families are waved at and photographed in their bedrooms and back gardens by the general public (complete strangers!).
    There was a residential plan approved previous to this which did not allow overlooking and breech of privacy on the scale of this new building.

  2. Do you have a reference to the Greenwich UDP restriction on roof gardens – which surprises me. But my unclear comment was made with thoughts about the windows which would surely have been on a residential block rather than to any roof gardens which might have been included.

    • The residents have no problems with the roof gardens as long as they are properly screened and managed.

      UDP reference comes from a resident’s meeting – a neighbour enquired whether they could build a roof extension with a terrace at the back of their property citing the university’s roof gardens and were informed it wouldn’t be in keeping with the character the West Greenwich conservation area.

      On the previously approved residential plans, the part of the site that is closest to the existing properties did not have any windows or overlooking – this is the part of the site that is still having issues.

  3. The University roof garden is a splendid teaching resource and much has happened in the past year there. Indeed the picture above does not do justice to it as a place, as a resource and as a way of slowing rainwater run-off. The staff who rescued the rather boring design that the university’s landscape consultant provided should be congratulated.

    However, as Geoff 3 says there is inadequate screening of views over the backs of adjacent houses and this is a failure of the architects, the planners and the university. One aspect is the slow growth of the perimeter hedges due to failures in the irrigation system, and if addressed and provided dead and dying hedge plants (about 10% I guess) are replaced then much of the overlooking will be screened. Nevertheless there are some gaps which should be filled, first with temporary screens (hessian or cane screens or synthetic windbreak fabric or shade netting would do the job) and secondly with all year round hedges such as beech) or better still maybe steel screen panels to match those existing. I advise Geoff3 to get in touch with his ward councillor and the university (write to David Maguire the Vice Chancellor, email: [email protected]).

    This is could be easily done at a relatively small cost, but the university needs to be prodded into action. The current overlooking is very unsatisfactory given it is now nearly a year since the building was opened.

    Not at all clear what Geoff3 means when he writes “The new university is a commercial building” the new university was founded in 1890 as Woolwich Polytechnic – the second oldest in the country – and has a proud tradition of vocational education. Formally it is a charity and operates for the public benefit.

    Greenwich UDP (Unitary Development Plan) was replaced by the Local Development Framework in 2014, see

    It would be extraordinary if a local authority were to disapprove of greening flat roofs in its area whether within Conservation Areas or not. I do not find any such ban in the Greenwich Local Development Framework as refer Geoff3 to the following policies:
    4.3.26 Greenwich
    4.6.50 (re Living Roofs)
    4.6.51 (re Living Roofs and biodiversity)
    4.6.52 (re Living Roofs and climate change amelioration)
    4.6.54 (re Green Roof Code)
    4.6.55 (Living Walls)
    4.6.56 (ref to Greener Greenwich Supplementary Planning Document)
    4.6.58 (ref to Policies 5.10 Urban greening and 5.11 Green roof and development site environs)

    Of course roof gardens with public access leading to overlooking may be something else.
    It is worth look at “Greenwich and Blackheath conservation areas management guidance” (2010)