Abney Park – council land for energy production 

(2019 – ongoing)

Hackney Council sought to make improvements to Abney Park, one of the “magnificent seven” garden cemeteries of London, and recognised the potential to use this council-managed asset for ground source heat while improving the park and adding new buildings.  


  • London’s green spaces have significant potential for green energy. Hackney Council have committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and recognised the opportunity to use their green assets to support this. 
  • Abney Park is one of the “magnificent seven” cemeteries of London, but its Chapel had been gutted in the 1980s by fire and vandalism. The building was hoarded off for public safety in 2012 and the Council completed a restoration programme on the structure of the building in 2017. 
  • In 2020 Hackney Council, with Possible – a  climate change charity based in the Borough – identified Abney Park as an opportunity to install new, green technology, to generate energy through the use of a ground source heat pump, heating old and new buildings.   
  • With £4.4m of National Lottery funding to improve Abney Park more broadly, the Council is also contributing £710k. This will be used to improve the park and build new buildings which will be heated through the ground source heat pump. 

Community wealth building by powering parks  

Using council land and property to support the energy transition 

As part of the ~£5m of improvements being made to the Park, an environmentally friendly heat pump has been installed to provide heat and hot water to the Park’s new buildings (a new cafe and classroom at the Park’s main entrance). New construction provides a valuable opportunity to choose a low-carbon heating system, while the improvement and construction work provided the opportunity for the ground source heat pump system to be installed without causing additional disruption. The ground source heat pump should break even after 10 to 15 years. 

It is also important to note that the Council opted for this technology, not because it was the cheapest option, but because it believes in the potential of local parks to support the energy transition by generating heat.  

An elegant solution  

The design uses a number of deep boreholes (100 – 200 metres deep) into which piping is inserted to create “ground loops” which will last for 50 to 100 years. The area above the boreholes has been paved over or seeded with grass, leaving no evidence of the infrastructure below apart from a discreet manhole cover. Inside the building, the heat pump is unobtrusive, quietly supplying warmth to the underfloor heating systems and hot water for the kitchen and bathrooms. 

In identifying the land and assets available to support the energy transition, this solution both supports the decarbonisation of heat while also maintaining the important function of local parks as a social and environmental asset. By choosing unobtrusive infrastructure in the form of a ground source heat pump, the Council is able to retain Abney Park’s Grade II listed appearance, while also using the land to support the energy transition. 

Circulating wealth locally 

The new buildings being developed as part of the improvements programme at Abney Park have been chosen to help generate income towards ongoing improvements. This means that ongoing maintenance and improvement to the Park can (at least in part) be funded by money generated there: money spent by the local community will be used for their benefit. 

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