About the Project – by Love Wimbledon
What is Hartfield Walk?
Hartfield Walk is a re-imagined space in the thoroughfare between Blacks and Robert Dyas, with new seating, planting and kiosks with underlying eco-messaging through art, graphics and play. It was created by Love Wimbledon and Firecracker Works and funded by the Merton Council Community Investment Levy.
What are the objectives?
The project aims to provide much-needed seating, extra planting and improved market kiosks for local start-up businesses, alongside an engaging area for children with some educational messaging about the environment.
How did you choose the location and the design?
Hartfield Walk has always been an unattractive and unloved alleyway. Market pitches have been available in this area where small independent locally owned businesses are able to trade. Through research and feedback and local knowledge, it was identified that the town desperately needed additional seating, new planting and the market traders needed help to eliminate the need for noisy, polluting generators.
We worked with a local business, Firecracker Works, experienced designers and creators, to develop a scheme meeting these demands revolving around an eco-message, which we then used to apply for funding. We consulted carefully with the stallholders and worked with Merton Council on the development of the scheme throughout.
How is the project funded?
When new building developments are delivered, a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is paid to Merton Council. This fund is available for local community groups to bid, for improvements to the local area. We were notified that we had been successful in September 2020 with funding of £120,000 (and £5,000 for a project on The Pavement, which we will be commencing soon). Delivering a project like this requires significant design expertise, talent and time and there are many constraints and considerations of working in an urban environment.
Love Wimbledon (who are funded by the businesses of Wimbledon Town Centre) also secured additional support from local landlords and the All England Lawn Tennis Club in order to deliver all aspects of the project.
Why was the project completed while the planning application was still live?
The majority of the project is public realm works and does therefore not require planning permission. The entire installation is temporary, (no foundations and no water supply or drainage) but we were advised in February that we needed to apply for planning permission for the installation of the four market kiosks. A planning application was submitted immediately but took some time to process before it went live.
The town centre had a number of challenges leading up to the re-opening of non-essential retail on 12th April. We took the decision to continue with the project as we did not wish to add to any difficulties for businesses – rather add a new outdoor space for people to enjoy when they do return. All feedback received from the planning application will be carefully considered as we understand the process is out of sync.
Town centres have been impacted significantly by Covid and need all the help they can get. Government guidance has been fast changing to enable high streets to reactivate themselves to attract visitors. A new extension supported a series of measures to help hospitality businesses in particular recover. These include:
- Greater flexibility for land to be used for temporary events, such as markets.
- Planning freedoms to allow outdoor markets, marquees, pop-up car-boot sales or summer fairs without the need of a planning application.
Wimbledon, like many other town centres, has been hit hard by closures. We can expect more. The fund was applied for as shops and restaurants were going out of business to not only activate a dead space but support local business, and in particular local independent start-up businesses.
Why were residents not consulted on the project?
We presented to the virtual Wimbledon Community Forum meeting in December, which was recorded and is available on YouTube. We were unable to undertake a physical consultation due to Covid, so ensured that our website and newsletters were informing of the project. The project has been in the public domain since 7th September 2020 when the project was approved at Merton Council.
Were the police consulted?
Yes, the designing out crime officer and the counter terrorism team were actively consulted and the scheme was adjusted taking on their recommendations.
Planting and Greening
How did you develop the planting scheme?
We worked with a horticulturalist with experience in urban and community schemes to develop a planting scheme that will respond well to the ecology and local environment of the site. Plants were unable to be put in the ground in this location so planters around benches were designed to accommodate both. There are over 50 species of plants introduced in this area that previously had no planting at all, 50% are drought-tolerant, many have pollinating or pollutant USPs and we also introduced herbs for educational purposes. A full list of plants can be seen here. We introduced green roofs (30 square meters) on the kiosks all of which will contribute to a greener space.
Where are the wildflowers/plants?
They are starting to come through, many are seasonal and as with any new planting, it takes a while to bed in. We intentionally chose young plants so that the changes in growth and season could feed into the learnings about biodiversity. Some plants may take 2-3 years to reach levels that are on the artist’s impressions.
We would encourage people to visit the area to enjoy these at different times of year to see the range we have planted – the scheme will respond differently through the seasons.
What is happening around the trees?
The structures around the trees allow for additional seating and planting with the trees offering shade and cover. The original iron protective guards which have been there since the trees were planted have not been touched and are allowing free-flowing air for the tree trunk to breathe. The planter and seat structures do not go to the ground so all rainwater and runoff will still reach the roots of the tree, as before. The small sections of astroturf were recovered from a different project – this was going to waste and is being used as a permeable layer, preventing cigarette butts and rubbish collecting at the base of the tree which harm the tree. These trees along with the whole site will be closely monitored and any remediation work will be undertaken as necessary.
How about a green wall?
Hartfield Walk is creating an interactive space with seating and stalls; we would love a green wall in Wimbledon but to be done properly it would need a large amount of funding and a long term maintenance budget – a good project for the future we hope.
How will the plants be maintained?
Love Wimbledon will maintain and regularly water the plants in the area, just as we do with other planted areas in the town.
Can you tell us more about the materials used?
Please refer to our Sustainable Elements page.
A few things:
- Generators have been removed and kiosks are powered by electricity
- Timber is FSC
- Oak has been repurposed from old canal lock gates
- Pre-existing bin has been refurbished
- Existing pavement slabs have been kept rather than buying new
- Water-based paints were used for their low level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
How were the stallholders chosen?
Three of the stallholders were already trading on Hartfield Walk. The stallholders apply for a street trading license and are allocated a pitch through the Merton Council process, just as before. We are delighted that the project has attracted new businesses into the area.
Have the cycle parking places been relocated? And if so, where are they?
The cycle parking has been replaced by new family-friendly bike racks in Hartfield Walk, opposite the entrance to Morrisons. The design and materials of these makes them stronger and more secure allowing bikes to be secured at two separate points. They are also located right in front of the CCTV cameras, helping to prevent the incidence of bike thefts.
Will the area attract more anti-social behaviour (drunk people congregating) or rough sleepers?
We work hard to assist homeless persons in Wimbledon into accommodation quickly. To do this we work with Merton Council Housing Team, the police and Safer Merton and as soon as we discover anyone without accommodation they are supported. The area has CCTV, is well lit and the kiosks have been designed with angled sides so sight lines are good.
How did you choose the colours?
Simply through nature. Often, we think of natural colours as being neutral but with plants, that’s not the case. We’ve taken the colours of crocuses (purples/lilacs) with their stamen (yellow/orange) and leaves (greens) and created the palette. Plants want to stand out for bees, Hartfield Walk stands out using nature’s colours.
How does it get cleaned?
The area has the bins emptied and gets swept daily. It will also be washed regularly. Stallholders will also keep an eye on the area and keep us up to date.
Is there a long-term maintenance plan?
Yes, there is. This includes snagging (the space is not yet complete as of 21.04.21) and removing brown stains leaking from the reclaimed wood (we are keeping an eye on this and expect it to stop weeping over the next few weeks) This is part of the agreement with the contractors.
We have daily ranger visits to the space assessing any issues as well as weekly contractor visits. Longer-term we have a maintenance budget in place for watering, plant replacement and maintenance, graffiti removal and a new lick of paint if needed. There will be yearly surveys of the space which include electrics and structures.
How can I find out more about projects like this?
Merton Council publishes all their decisions and minutes on their website. Our application was submitted in June 2020, along with many others, in response to a public call for local projects to be funded through the Neighbourhood Fund. Bids are assessed by officers and Councillors against the objectives of the Community Plan and other placemaking and planning priorities such as the Wimbledon masterplan. Details of the decision can be seen here.
Are there more space improvements like this planned in Wimbledon Town Centre?
The new YMCA design of its redevelopment includes a new public space with planting on the Broadway and the refurbishment of the Polka Theatre has a far improved relationship with the building and the street, which is due to complete this year.
What about longer term?
We hope to see the murals being changed every few years, and with the passion and enthusiasm of many residents and businesses we expect to get some promising ideas coming through. The great thing about this space is it is designed to adapt and change, as the climbers in the archway develop, and the trailing plants drop the space will also soften.