Idea: Making more of the potential of under-utilised courtyards behind the high street
Activating underutilised spaces behind the high street, such as yards and courtyards, to host activities, create attractive and charming pedestrian spaces and support new business. This project encourages landowners and the community to think creatively about the potential of these courtyards. Often these back of high street spaces are solely used for parking and storage; however, they have the potential also to become unique places where people socialise, work, shop, dine and garden.
Enhancing the commercial and cultural offer of Chipping Barnet by ‘thickening’ the high street to support more diverse uses and activities including:
- Light industrial maker spaces with associated external workspace
- External dining and pop-up events
- Community gardens and growing projects
- Artist/maker studios that incorporate retail space onto the high street
Why it is useful:
Located behind high street units, these spaces could become:
- Host spaces for new activities, such as shared community gardens, external dining, work yards, studios.
- Enable double-fronted units, which have the resilience to support more uses, from shops, restaurants and cafés to workspaces and community uses.
- Increase permeability and better link the high street to residential and businesses uses beyond.
- Link into further development opportunities, for example, any future development to the Army Reserve Deport or The Spires should aid the activation of adjacent yard/courtyard spaces.
Who needs to be involved:
- Site Ownership: Lead proposals for their site
- Council: Support
- New tenants/ businesses community
- Town Team: Champion
How to get started:
- Engage landlords
- Explore feasibility for sites and potential uses
- Test ideas with key stakeholders
- Partner with a community organisation or procure an operator to access and make use of the site
- Funding: Depends on proposals – either privately funded by site owners/operator or a mix of grant funding. For example, GLA Good Growth Fund, Power to Change, Crowdfunding and Heritage Lottery funding (if it relates to conservation area/listed building)
- Site Ownership: Private site ownership
- Resource: Requires council officer time to support
Example: Blue House Yard
Blue House Yard is a redevelopment and re-imagining of an empty and underused yard, a few minutes from Wood Green station. The operator (High Street Works) worked in partnership with the council to transform the site into a place for local creatives, entrepreneurs and residents for the meanwhile use period of 5 years. The redevelopment created both private spaces for rent and a new public space for meeting friends, discovering events and interacting with local designers and makers. The council owns the site, and the operator raised approx. 30% of the funding and the council contributed the remainder. The project supports local businesses and entrepreneurs including a cafe, independent retailers (from records, books and stationery to organic gifts, sustainable fashion and jewellery), artists, makers, design agencies and musicians.
Example: Eastern Curve Garden
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is community garden project that reused an unloved back of high street space. It offers a beautiful green space for everyone to enjoy all year round with an education programme and community events. As they have become more established, the Garden has been managed as a social enterprise, with employees as well as volunteers, and the addition of a cafe which financially supports the Garden. Originally seed funded by the GLA for its first two years, the garden has been self-sustaining. To overcome the new challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic, they have successfully crowdfunded nearly £85k.
Example: Illife Yard
A successful community of businesses has been achieved, aided by the mews/yard acting as a shared, central space. Whilst the mews is used for some parking and deliveries, the space is creatively used to better support tenants, encourage a wider variety of businesses and increase footfall. The spaces outside units have become places to socialise, work and even garden. And a calendar of events promotes footfall and exposure of the businesses, with open studios and events.