Greening of drab Tricorn site should inspire others

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With a bit of luck tens of thousands of visitors will pour into Portsmouth this weekend for 
the America’s Cup jamboree.

With a bit of luck they will marvel at our seafront and be suitably impressed by the huge green public open space that is Southsea Common.

With a bit of luck they will not have arrived to watch the spectacular international yachting competition via Market Way.

But the chances are, most will have done and been confronted by the acres of asphalt which is now a car park and which was once home to the Tricorn Centre.

Those windswept rows of parking bays in such a prominent position in the city centre cannot fail to depress.

Even the old concrete ‘Casbah in the Sky’, as the Tricorn was dubbed when it opened in 1966, was better than what has followed in the 11 years since demolition.

However, for those of us who know the site and pass it regularly, you will have noticed something stirring on the Tarmac.

Hats off to David Baynes and his team for attempting to take 
the sting out of this deadly dull urban landscape by installing large 
planters and greenery in a corner of the plot.

It’s all part of the Greening Grey Britain project run by the Royal Horticultural Society and what Mr Baynes and his cohorts have done on such a prominent site might inspire many more to take action at home. And it’s particularly relevant in Portsmouth.

Three times as many front gardens have been paved over compared to 10 years ago – most of them for parking, which is at such a premium in the city.

Plant cover has decreased by as much as 15 per cent and, nationally, more than five million front gardens now have no plants growing in them (that’s one in three in the UK) and 4.5 million are completely paved over.

It might seem the ideal way to solve parking problems, but the extra hard surfaces have an impact on the wider environment by causing flooding and increasing local temperatures. Gardens can soak up rain, while paving increases the amount of rainwater that runs off by as much as 50 per cent.

The more vegetation that is lost from our streets, the less there is to regulate temperatures.

The Tricorn site project is admirable and if it encourages everyone with a paved front garden to remove one slab and replace it with a shrub, its goal will have been achieved.