We caught up with Brenda Puech to learn more about Parklets and how they’re lifting the mood in the Borough of Hackney.
Hi Brenda! Can you tell us a bit about Parklets? What inspired you to set them up?
Parklets are basically repurposed parking spaces on the street where you live, for community uses other than the storage of cars. They can include planters, 🌱 benches, games, 🎲 notice boards or anything that really benefits the community. 👍
It started when I launched a campaign for people to have access to parking spaces in boroughs whether they own a car or not. The number of people who don’t have a car in London is double the number who do but everyone should have access to some of that space. When cars are parked in spaces they become private, rather than public.
I applied for a permit to put a bench, cycle parking 🚴 and flower planters 🌻 in a space for the community to use. Hackney said no, as the permits were only for cars and a scheme like this didn’t exist, but I decided to go ahead anyway.
Hackney eventually signed up to the scheme because of the positive reaction. How did that feel?
Hackney used to build their own parklets, which was very expensive. The beauty of this scheme is that it’s community-led, so it doesn’t take much money and the community owns it. Hackney are very progressive for doing this. It’s the first place in the UK that has let residents and the community apply to have their own parklet.
The resource, investment and creativity of the community makes this scheme truly transformative. 🌍 Once people realise it’s possible to make parking spaces into their own space eventually it will take off and people will invest in their public realm.
What kind of local feedback have you received from the scheme?
When I set up my parklet I included a sign ⚠️ saying people could park themselves or their bike there. 🚲 People took up the invitation. ✉️ As well as the bench, there was a big umbrella ⛱ and a table, so people were sitting, chatting and laughing, and kids were reading 📚 and drawing. ✏️ I left a guestbook there to see who had enjoyed the space, and got great feedback from everyone including pregnant women 🤰 and older people enjoying the space. Even joggers said they were using the space as a resting point. 🏃♀️
Most people thought Hackney had done this and they loved the borough for making the space public. It really raised the mood!