On the 12th October we held a walking workshop, starting from the Oasis Community Cafe. The idea of the workshop was for a group of us to explore some of the key public spaces around the neighbourhood and examine how well they work – are they pleasant and welcoming? Do they feel safe? What’s good and bad about them? What ideas have people got to enhance them? The activity was open to everyone living locally to take part.
A group of about six of us set out on the walk, initially planning to look at Upper Spon Street outside the shops, the area around the Spon Street Subway and the open spaces close to the River Sherbourne. On the day we didn’t get as far on our walk as planned – but this was because everyone was so enthusiastic and had so many ideas to share, we simply ran out of time!
In particular the people who came along on the walk were really keen to see some improvements made to the Spon Street subway. The group were all in agreement that as a main entrance/exit to Spon End the first impression it makes of the area is not great.
Outside the shops on Upper Spon Street people were keen to highlight the uneven pavements, lack of seating and an essentially blank space. The area is opposite Spon Gate Primary and parents often congregate here before and after school, but the space doesn’t feel very welcoming or ‘people friendly’.
During the session we tested something called the ‘Healthy Streets Tool’, as a way of analysing how well the areas we looked at performed as good quality public spaces. The tool has been devised by Transport for London and allows participants to score the area against 10 key indicators which contribute towards a ‘healthy street’. Participants mark a cross on the tool to represent their opinion on each of the indicators. A score of 1 means excellent (towards the centre of the circle) and a score of 5 means poor (at the edge of the circle). The example below shows how one of the participants scored the area outside the shops on Upper Spon Street…
The tool was a useful as a focus for our discussions, although we all agreed that some of the indicators were not highly applicable to the parts of Spon End we were looking at – so a bit of adaption to some of the wording would be helpful in future. It also works best for collecting data when you have a larger group of people taking part in the exercise.
At the end of the workshop we agreed that the next steps would be to arrange a more focused session, to investigate further people’s views and ideas for the subway specifically and to encourage more people to come along and get involved.