Robin-like black redstarts, common pipistrelle and the rarer Leisler’s bat, pied wagtails, song thrushes and wrens are among those recorded in a recent survey of buildings around Regent Street, Haymarket and Piccadilly Circus.
In a new ecology initiative – called the Wild West End – the area’s largest property owners are linking Regent’s Park and St James’s Park with green stepping stones to encourage more birds, bats and insects to the built-up busy streets.
Green roofs, planters, beehives and bird and bat boxes will be planted or installed to provide a permanent habitat for London’s wildlife as part of the project. It is being led by the Crown Estate, whose £8.1 billion property portfolio is one of the largest in the UK and revenues of which accrue to the Treasury.
The London Wildlife Trust said it was a "fabulous step" towards attracting nature to the heart of the capital, and demonstrating "how wildlife can flourish amidst the hustle and bustle of the city centre".
The roof will comprise 20 species of flower – including birdsfoot trefoil, oxeye daisy and field scabious – chosen to attract butterflies, bees and other invertebrates and provide foraging opportunities for robins, goldfinch and the black redstart. There will be sheltered areas to attract insects, such as woodlice and spiders, and it is hoped insects attracted to the roof will provide food for bats and encourage them to nest and roost in bat boxes. The Crown Estate said it would create a "thriving ecosystem in the heart of the West End".
A similar green roof is planned for the W5 South flagship redevelopment as part of the £1 billion regeneration of Regent Street by the Crown Estate, which surveyed eight rooftop locations around Regent Street and St James’s.
In a single week, bats were recorded at the top and middle of Regent Street, with 12 pipistrelle calls caught on automatic bat recorders at Mortimer Street and two at Hanover Square. Detectors at St James’s Piccadilly church caught one Leisler’s bat call and more than 130 pipistrelle calls. Black redstarts were seen feeding up and down Regent Street and to the south of Oxford Street.
London’s natural habitats are fragmented, small and usually separated by densely built-up environments. This project will allow wildlife to move around the capital more freely.
James Cooksey, from the Crown Estate, said green initiatives were crucial for the well-being of the capital. "With the trend towards urbanisation continuing across the world, it’s important for big property owners, businesses, government and charities to consider carefully their impact on plants, habitats and wildlife in major cities," he said.
In Chicago, introducing green roofs across 10 per cent of buildings was shown to remove 17,400mg of nitrogen dioxide each year.
A Wild West End website charting progress on the ecology measures is due to launch next month.