At the redesigned junction of Gale Street and Rugby Road we’ve heard a number of positive comments from residents we wanted to share. Often benches in public spaces in urban neighbourhoods are viewed as high risk, with residents and PCSO teams fearing increased antisocial behaviour, drugs and alcohol all associated with a reduction in quality of place and wellbeing. The result is public seating in new schemes often gets pushed out, associated with negativity and people continue to think if there was seating it would be misused.
During DIY Porter’s Lodge we developed close relationships with a number of local residents who had these fears and approach to public seating. However, getting to know them over time, aswell as spending a huge amount of time in the area and by testing out temporary seating at community events they became more open in admitting that regardless of how other people might (mis)use a bench they themselves and many of their older neighbours were really in need of more safe places to sit down.
Terry who’s registered disabled and walks with a crutch told us: “What it is, is now I can walk down to here and sit down, walk up the hill to lean against the fence and walk up to the bench over the hill and then come back the same way. It makes life easier for me. I think it’s fantastic.”
Since the benches went in we’ve seen lots of people sitting on the benches at different times of the day looking out on to the Park and their presence changes the feeling of the gateway to the neighbourhood entirely. It asserts confidence in the neighbourhood that the seating has been placed and most of all increases quality of life for residents like Terry who are now able to walk a little further and push themselves a little harder in the knowledge that they have one more place they’ll be able to sit down during their walk.
All our community design work is about making better places to live in and move through and designing spaces that are focused on people. By giving more people the opportunity to sit down and watch the world go by, creating a place where good things happen – the benches strengthen the vision of a neighbourhood with positive aspirations and community spirit which may begin to shift some negative stereotypes.