London Living Streets)
Inspired by the direct action of Hackney Living Streets campaigner, Brenda Puech, Hackney Council is launching a trial today that allows Hackney residents to turn kerbside parking spaces into mini parks, or ‘parklets’.
In a bid to reduce ‘the dominance of cars on our roads’, Hackney Council is inviting residents to submit ideas for community parklets that could include planters, benches, games, notice boards or ‘anything that your creativity and inventiveness can come up with’.
The trial scheme will support 15 parklets on residential streets with grants of up to £150. Once trialled and in consultation with neighbours, originators can apply for them to become permanent. Residents or ‘parklet keepers’ will be responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of them. More information is available at hackney.gov.uk/parklets. Applications close on August 26.
The trial was born out of a campaign by Puech who was frustrated with the extraordinary freedoms given to motor vehicles at the expense of other road users. In Hackney, around two thirds of residents, like her, do not own cars, but the majority of kerbside space is given over to low-cost car parking.
In 2017, she took action and transformed a parking space outside her home near London Fields into a parklet (pictured above). Residents were instantly supportive, using the space with its bench, bright red umbrella, artificial grass and flower pots to rest, relax, talk and play.
The council opposed the idea, forcing her to move it to different locations to outflank evictions. But one year on, influenced by the positive reaction from residents, the council has changed its position and decided to let others follow Puech’s lead.
This shift in policy is unprecedented. Councils have paid huge sums for a few token parklets before, but this is the first time communities will gain freedom to set up low-cost versions themselves.
This is a major triumph for Puech and London Living Streets, proving that both councils and communities are ready to rethink how we use and imagine our streets.
Brenda Puech is at Broadway Market today, 25 July, with her original parklet to launch the trial. Watch this space for updates as the trial progresses.