Parklets can transform our streets, providing places for us to stop, rest and have fun. But there are risks involved in setting up one of these mini-parks. If you're thinking of creating one, Jon and Diana's story is essential reading.
It was early 2020, and inspired by the annual Living Streets Walking Summit, we raced home and planned to create a parklet on the road outside our home in Brixton, South London.
As lockdown took hold, we wrote to our local council and councillors but got no reply. So we asked our immediate neighbours, got their support and then sent letters to everyone on our block, 30 households in all.
We got 14 positive replies, 3 against and the others didn’t reply. A lot of people offered help. We allayed a few fears by agreeing to bring seats in every night. In early 2021 we swung into action.
Keeping costs low, we picked up abandoned pallets and made a base. We put it in place bit by bit, waiting to see if anyone objected. We added a few plants from neighbours, found two folding chairs, then added more plants, a table and some non-slip rubber matting. Before long, our parklet was complete.
Everyone loved it! Or most people. One person objected to losing a car parking space. But the warmth of the response was fantastic. Neighbours called round. We made new friends. Lots of them.
People brought even more plants and we began to add a 'Book of the Day'. One morning we opened the door to find a new mum breast feeding her baby. Another day it was an elderly lady taking a breather on her way home.
After four months the parklet had become a ‘destination’ as people taking lockdown walks headed in our direction. Sometimes they just sat and enjoyed the space, other times they just smiled and laughed and chatted and moved on.
A few people brought drinks with them and then we began making tea. Rattray Parklet made it onto Google Maps.
In March, Sarah Everard was murdered on her walk back home to Brixton, and the parklet became a focal point for the community to express their sadness and remember her.
A respite on my long lockdown walks and, honestly, it has given me hope for the future
Sadly, in May, the council responded to complaints and issued us with a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice for obstructing the highway.
We spoke to local councillors and the council's Director of Transport. He was sympathetic but clearly felt he couldn’t alter the Council’s position as they had no process for authorising a parklet in a Controlled Parking Zone (an area where on-street parking is restricted during specified times).
Eventually the Council agreed that a new kerbside management policy would be devised, that parklets would be prioritised and that we could be part of the consultation. We await further news on this and hope that the council introduces a funded and supported parklet scheme on the borough.
We celebrated Windrush Day on the parklet as our last event for the community and then dismantled it on 30th June 2021. It will rise again.
We have got in touch with our Living Streets Local Group in Lambeth and are working with them to call on the council to introduce an official parklets scheme to make these pop-up community spaces benefit everyone.
“The parklet has had a huge impact on the "togetherness" of the neighbourhood”
We'd love to see more parklets set up across the UK. But Jon and Diana's story is a reminder that you should always get permission from your local council as landowners consent it essential.
Be patient, as this can take some time. If you'd like to create one where you live, make sure you read our Parklets Toolkit first.