Emerging ProjectProgressed Project

Activating the Public Realm

Idea: Adapting the public realm so it supports businesses, organisations and civic institutions to activate the high street. This could include a range of interventions including seating, planting, cycle parking and spaces to gather or trade

Specific locations utilised to unlock the potential of local businesses and organisations, encourage more uses of the town centre and improve the quality of the public realm. Such as:

  • Pavements and parklets outside pubs, restaurants and cafés used for external dining
  • Utilise and activate the space created through the recent pavement widening for on street trading including Markets
  • Infrastructure to support market stalls to the wider pavements and at the College Square
  • Growing and seating by schools and civic buildings to meet or catch-up with friends

Within the context of COVID-19, there is a short term opportunity for the physical infrastructure of these projects to be used to allow appropriate social distancing on the high street and support business operations, for example, temporarily extending the pavement width.

Why it is useful:

  • Better facilities for businesses and increase sales
  • Improve the pedestrian experience and promote healthy streets
  • Increase footfall and activities that enliven the town centre
  • Promote further investment in the town centre
  • Respond to COVID-19 requirements

Who needs to be involved:

  • Businesses, organisations, civic institutions: Co-lead
  • Council: Co-lead / Support / Licensing role / Coordinate & assist funding applications
  • Town Team: Champion

How to get started:

  • Engage with potential local businesses and cultural institutions etc. to identity ideas and potential
  • Engage with relevant council departments and secure permissions as required
  • Council support a simple license application process
  • Could test and launch interventions as part of local festivals

Viability considerations:

  • Funding potential: TfL Healthy Street Fund / Mayor’s Air Quality Fund/crowdfunding
  • Location: Multiple locations along the high street, e.g. outside cafe/restaurants, civic/cultural buildings, schools, and public spaces, e.g. the College Square
  • Resource: Requires local businesses/organisations

Example: Paper and Cup, Calvert Avenue Parklet

Outside a cafe, the 14-person seating area also accommodates two large trees, 12 metre-long trellis of climbing plants and parking for bikes. Since the installation sales at the cafe have gone up 20%. It is mobile – meaning it can be taken down and put up somewhere else. The Parklet is part of a larger initiative to encourage green spaces, cleaner air, and promote cycling. A local resident has also suggested an example of a community-led seating and planting project, the Friendship Bench.

Example: Clapham Old Town

The public realm improvements at Clapham Old Town include pavement widening with trees, seats, ornamental planting and loading facilities. These widened footways now accommodate more tables and chair space for the various cafes, restaurants and pubs, space for businesses to trade and people to stop and relax, increasing dwell time and adding to the vibrancy of this local centre.

A TfL comparison study into the value of street improvement included the works to Clapham Old Town. The report (content.tfl.gov.uk/street-appeal.pdf ) found improvements to the quality of high streets and town centres returns substantial benefits to everyday users, and the occupiers and investors in surrounding property. These included a decline in retail vacancy (17% per annum), growth in leisure uses and tripling of activities such as stopping at a café or sitting at a bench.