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From play streets to parklets – new ways to reclaim space for children and communities

posted this in Activism, Community, Street Space on 13/09/2021

A Parklet in Hackney, London, with a young woman holding a baby standing and smiling at the camera, and 3 people sitting behind her on benches

Would you and your children like to see one of these on your street?

We know we would!

Our friends at the climate charity Possible have launched a new campaign to grow parklets in our towns and cities.

What are parklets?

Parklets are a way of creating new local space for children and communities to enjoy.
Parklets can be temporary or permanent, and contain lots of different things e.g. games,
plants, seating, book swaps, bike parking… the possibilities are endless! You could decide
together with your neighbours (including children) what you want in yours. They often use a parking space, but sometimes they repurpose other bits of unused public space.

Julia, a mum in Cambridge who has also campaigned for Playing Out there, created a
colourful pop up parklet in an area that had always been used for fly-tipping.

Photo credits: Possible

Why are parklets needed?

After a year and a half of lockdown isolation, and with a climate crisis on our hands, we are
never more in need of positive community actions which re-imagine space and create more
play, community and greenery where we live.

The main objection to parklets is the same as to play streets: that residential roads are only
for cars – moving or parked. However most roads were not built for cars originally and they
are still areas of public space owned by us all. So, it’s important to question this perspective
and look at streets with everyone’s needs in mind. You can read more about the history of parklets
if you are interested.

Here at Playing Out we think these are an amazing and simple grassroots tool for change in
our communities. Particularly in areas which are lacking in green space and where there is
low car ownership. You can find out where those areas are in your neighbourhood using the Parklet Plotter created by Possible

Permission for parklets

Like play streets, parklets need permission from the council and currently there is only one
council who have a clear process for this – Hackney – see their parklets webpage

However, if you’re not in Hackney that doesn’t mean you can’t have one!

Photo credit: Maggie Westhead**

Every good idea starts with pioneers who are willing to try something different

Playing Out started in 2009 using a street party application form in Bristol to demonstrate the idea. People got so excited about it, that it started spreading around the city, and Bristol Council worked with Playing Out to develop the Temporary Play Street Order, allowing residents to apply only once for multiple closures a year. Once Bristol had done it, residents from other areas got interested and started pestering their own councillors for it.
Today, 12 years later, 85 council areas have play street policies and play streets are happening in over 100 council areas around the UK*

We think parklets could follow a similar story, growing in popularity as more people hear about them. For example you could start by suspending a parking bay for one day.

How can I get a parklet?

Our friends at the charity Possible (formerly 10:10) have launched a new parklets campaign.
If you’re keen to be a pioneer in your area by hosting a parklet where you live, and you have
some time and energy to put into it, get in touch with us or Possible for advice.
Possible will be trialling parklets in 4 cities to celebrate Car Free Day this September, we will
be resharing their stories, so watch this space!

Follow Possible at:

Twitter:       https://twitter.com/_wearepossible

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_wearepossible

Website:     https://www.wearepossible.org

*In some council areas where there is no play street policy, residents are using street party or other road closure applications to play out.

**Photo source: https://www.pgweb.uk/planning-all-subjects/traffic-roads-parking/106-roads/2323-what-a-perfect-day-for-a-pop-up-parklet

 

 

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