Commercial trumps community
Despite their popularity, getting ‘community parklets’ approved is a bureaucratic nightmare. There is no process in any London borough.
‘Commercial parklets’ are deemed desirable, whereas the bar for their cheap-and-cheerful community equivalent is set prohibitively high.
Residents are required to take out a huge public liability insurance policy (proposed up to £10 million in one London borough) simply for installing a bench and table in the street.
A People Parking Bay
Talking about the ‘People Parking Bay’ she set up in Hackney, Brenda said: ‘People used the Parking Bay as a resting point on the way back from shopping or cycling; mums used it to feed their babies; locals watered the plants. One couple had their first date there.
‘You’d see complete strangers smiling and talking to each other. The reaction of residents was astonishingly positive. At first I’d find feedback on bits of paper sellotaped to the bay, so I decided to leave a visitor book on the table. Five books filled up within four weeks!’
Sadly, the parklet was removed by the council, despite Brenda’s efforts to apply for a residential car parking permit and lobbying councillors in Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
‘Allowing people to create parklets will empower communities, build social alliances and enable people to invest in the streets they live in, with a marginal impact on the number of car parking spaces. At this time of recovery from covid and real concerns about climate change, we need to start a huge shift from streets for vehicles to streets for people.’
Chair of London Living Streets
Car ownership in London
A map being developed by the campaign will celebrate existing parklets and activities planned for People Parking Day, with the hope that councils will allow local groups to put one on every residential street in the capital.
Rates of car ownership are far lower in London than the rest of the country. In inner London, nearly two-thirds of households (61%) do not have access to their own car, and are unable to use these public spaces to socialise or play with their families.
Across the capital, nearly half (46%) of households don’t have access to a car. Islington has the lowest level of car ownership at 26%, according to figures published by Transport for London.
‘We want a place for families to be allowed to eat together when they come to our soup kitchen. Having a parklet outside our cafe would create a community identity and be a green garden addition to the streets of Hoxton.’
Humdingers Catering in Hoxton
Research by Centre for London shows that there are over 1 million car parking spaces in London, taking up over 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of kerbside space.
This is roughly the distance from the UK to the US across the Atlantic Ocean.
The average car in London is parked 95% of the time (ie over 23 hours a day). 43% of cars are parked on-street, taking up the equivalent of 10 Hyde Parks.