Living Streets

There is a new crowdfunder that wants to make our city greener and bring social and environmental benefit to the public here in the city. But what actually is Living Streets? It is what happens when parking spaces and small under-used roadside areas are transformed into a community space with benches, seats, and planters. They challenge the idea that kerbside space is only for car storage. Portsmouth needs to reduce carbon emissions, support local biodiversity and encourage forms of active travel in order to adequately respond to the climate emergency.

The project aims to increase greening in the area, encourage active travel, support local businesses and provide outdoor seating to bring the local community together, by regenerating existing urban spaces on these high streets. The first site will be on Albert Road, outside Southsea Cycles, where the existing pavement extension and one car parking space will be temporarily used to enable the enhancements. The second site will run on the private land outside the shops on Highland Road, from Goulds Jewellers to Bengal Spice.

The designs for the project came from a competition organised by the social enterprise FORM+FUNCTION for Portsmouth University School of Architecture students to design a series of spaces with the aim to revitalise and green local streets, provide community spaces and support local businesses. Sixteen proposals were submitted and second year MA students Jack Clark and Charlotte Hubbard as team ‘Circulus’ won first place, creating a modular design which responds to the individual needs of both pilot locations. They are working in collaboration with local partners and international architecture offices to develop their ideas, in consultation with the nearby businesses.

Guido Robazza, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Portsmouth University, said “Circulus’ proposal puts in place an excellent set of functions that can stimulate local life and offer opportunities of interaction among the community, with everything from bolstering the local economy to tackling loneliness. “The Living Streets design is modular and therefore incredibly flexible to the needs of local businesses, residents and the needs of any given area. We hope that this project will inspire others across the city to see how urban spaces can be improved – to better support our community, businesses and the environment.”

There have been months of consultation with local businesses, alongside the other members of the core Living Streets Project team, which includes: Cllr George Fielding and Cllr Charlotte Gerada, ward councillors for Central Southsea; Annabel Innes, Director of FORM+FUNCTION; and Guido Robazza, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Portsmouth University.

Annabel Innes, Director of FORM+FUNCTION and responsible for last year’s Orchard Park basketball court regeneration project said “We’ve engaged extensively with residents and businesses about the idea of Living Streets and there is widespread support. They are working elsewhere to be the catalyst for behaviour change around how people travel to their local shops and they’re bringing much-needed community spaces to streets. “The approach with Living Streets is that they are designed by the local community – students, residents, organisations, and businesses – so they serve the needs of any given area. Often there is pavement or existing space that can be repurposed to transform urban areas in a way unique to the micro-communities they hope to benefit.”

The project is intended as a pilot scheme and when the project has shown what can be achieved in the first two locations,  Albert Road and Highland Road , then the opportunity to create more locations around Portsmouth is something for the future. Living Streets aims to tackle 4 key areas: encourage active travel, green Portsmouth streets, support local businesses, and bring our community together.

Cllr Charlotte Gerada, a Labour councillor and Labour’s Spokesperson for Climate Change and Green Recovery, said “The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the importance of outdoor space to allow people to congregate safely. We’ve seen residents’ behaviour change as a response to the pandemic, where more of us are appreciating nature, using forms of active travel and better appreciating outside space. “Now is the time to capitalise on this behaviour change, having more multipurpose outside spaces and provision to bring our communities together. Living Streets would be a brilliant addition to our city, to add pockets of green in built-up areas, enhance urban biodiversity and provide outside seating space for our local businesses during this challenging economic time.”

Being the second most congested city outside of London, I do feel that we need more green projects to help us progress through the next generation and I did see a lovely project in London that was part of the London Design Festival in 2016 that had pop-up gardens in Shoreditch and allowed people to stop, recharge and experience nature. There were lots of foliage and dedicated areas to sit and take in the space around you. I do think if these projects are done in a clever way they do enhance the environment and help to ease our busy minds. it is reported that being in nature for just 15 minutes helps to reduce stress levels. The stretch that leads on from Broadway Coffee Roasters would greatly benefit from this scheme and I am excited to see how it progresses. What are your thoughts on this project?

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