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Street greenery

One of a series of street environment design guides.

Description of the element

Flowerbed in Wetherby town centre

This design guide provides information on older people’s preferences for different types of street greenery. Specifically our participants were asked to comment on choice of street lining (grass verges, trees) and to comment on more temporary planting features such as hanging baskets and planters.


“Planting adds value: it helps to soften the urban street scene, creates visual and sensory interest, and improves the air quality and micro climate. It can also provide habitats for wildlife. The aromatic qualities or contrasting colours and textures of foliage are of value to all, and can assist the navigation of those with visual impairment. Flowers and fruit trees add seasonal variety. Planting can provide shade, shelter, privacy, spatial containment and separation. It can also be used to create buffer or security zones, visual barriers, or landmarks or gateway features”. (DfT 2007)

What older people tell us they prefer and why

Bench with two planters D

Planters are:

“Nice when properly maintained”
“Too often used as rubbish bins”

Raised flower beds D

Raised flower beds are:

“Nice, they break up the built environment”
“You can sit next to it and feel it” [the plants]
“It may not be attractive” [if planter material is concrete for example]
“Often used as rubbish bins”

top of pageHanging baskets

“It conveys the feeling of a street being a nice place”
“They are difficult to vandalise”
“A good thing about it is that it is within your vision”
“They are quite nice but they do need looking after and replanting”

Overall, our participants were very positive about street greenery, typical comments being:

“Wonderful, anything that adds a bit of colour”
“I like all types of street greenery”
“Anything that brightens up the place”

What we know from our research about street greenery

When we asked participants what streets they like in their neighbourhood, 80% said they like tree-lined streets with grass verges, compared with 39.5% for grass verges and 37% for tree-lined. 5% of our participants preferred no street greenery. Participants were also asked about whether they like temporary street greenery features. 85% like hanging baskets, 61% like raised flowerbeds and 56% like planters.

From our physical audit of participant’s neighbourhoods, we found that 21.5% of streets have no street greenery, and at the neighbourhood scale this is similar at 17.5%. Where greenery is provided, the emphasis at the street level is on grass verges and trees, and within the neighbourhood this is additionally supplemented by more temporary features such as planters (17%), hanging baskets (15%), raised flower / shrub beds (11%) and flower / shrub beds (10%).

Bar chart 1 Audit of street greenery

Bar chart: Audit of street greenery D

Bar chart 2 Audit of neighbourhood greenery

Bar chart: Audit of neighbourhood greenery D


Maintenance is a concern of our participants, hence the preference for hanging baskets because it is difficult for them to become rubbish bins. It is recommended that where there are groups of planters, raised flower beds or similar, easy access to rubbish bins is provided.

The provision of seating near planting is a preference for older people – the opportunity to sit and enjoy the planting rather than having to stand. Also, since planted areas generate passing conversation between people, again the opportunity to sit and talk is welcomed. It recommended that, where possible, seating is provided near planting.

Participants mentioned that they enjoy plants that stimulate the senses, not always prioritised by local councils concerned to keep maintenance to a minimum. It is recommended that plants which stimulate the senses are provided where possible.

Where to find further information

CLG has information on trees at its website, including pointers to several publications to assist with planting, conserving and maintaining trees in the built environment. CLG produce a Research for Amenity Trees series www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1127779

DfT (2007) Manual for Streets, London, Thomas Telford Publishing http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/

English Heritage (2005). Streets for All. London. English Heritage. www.english-heritage.org.uk

Sensory Trust (2004) A Sense of Place. Conference Report. Sensory Trust, St Austell, Cornwall. www.sensorytrust.org.uk/information/publications/sense_of_place.html

Stoneham, J and Thoday, P (1994). Landscape design for elderly and disabled people. Garden Art Press. Woodbridge.


This Design Guide is first printed in 2007 and is protected by Copyright Notice © Rita Newton and Marcus Ormerod, I’DGO Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors.

Corresponding author of this Design Guide:

Rita Newton, SURFACE Inclusive Design Research Centre, The University of Salford, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, UK. Email:r.newton@salford.ac.uk

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