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Hartfield Walk Update: June 2021

 

Every week Hartfield Walk continues to develop. The plants are starting to give added structure and colour, the wildflower roof has buds that are beginning to burst. The stallholders are meeting and greeting many locals, feeling the real benefit of switching to electricity from generators, as well as the insulation with the green roofs and cooling on a hot day.

New stainless-steel plaques have been placed around the space, with QR codes to scan, allowing you to use your phone to learn more. The bee-eautiful ‘Bee in the garden’ bike racks have returned and we are looking at other places within the town to increase bike rack numbers.

As with many new and innovative projects there have been some teething problems, and through ongoing snagging these are being addressed. We’ve had a few questions about these, so to give some answers:

  • The use of repurposed wooden lock gates for seating and wooden trim has caused some unsightly leeching onto the painted surfaces. The contractors have been cleaning this weekly and it is likely to settle over the next few weeks, this is being actively managed.
  • The bespoke bike racks had an issue with chipping, this has been remedied by the suppliers and have now been reinstalled.
  • The flaking paint on parts of the floor maze was caused by unexpected rain during installation, which we were hoping would not affect the finish. This will be repainted but requires better weather to ensure the issue is resolved.
  • We have received a report from an independent arboriculturist who confirmed the design of the seating around the trees is not detrimental. However, to be absolutely sure they recommended some remedial work to increase air circulation, which has been undertaken. We will commission annual reports on these trees.

The space is designed primarily for seating and stalls, with planting softening the spaces and messaging helping us all consider what we can do to be more eco. We would encourage people to visit the space, admire the green roofs which are starting to flower, say hello to the local businesses who have an improved space to work from and take a moment to sit down and enjoy a place which before was a soulless cut through.

As with any new landscaping, patience is key, so in time the area will continue to settle and develop, and the planting will have a positive contribution to our air quality, in addition to making the area look more attractive.

Love Wimbledon has published a comprehensive FAQ webpage to learn more about the background of the project and decisions made, and there are further webpages about how the project focussed on having a positive environmental impact during design and construction.

If you have any specific questions about Hartfield Walk please email the Love Wimbledon team, who will be sure to reply within a few days.

 

Hartfield Walk Frequently Asked Questions

About the Project

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.

The Consultation

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.

Sustainability

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)

Stallholders

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.

Bike Racks

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.

Additional Questions

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.

A New Space with Eco-messages in Wimbledon

The transformation of Hartfield Walk from a bland thoroughfare to a place where you can sit, play, get educated and pick up some delicious treats, came about from the request for more seating in the town centre, a greener environment and something a bit different. Love Wimbledon instigated the reimagining of the space at a time when outside spaces are even more important to us all, and the need to experience something different has grown stronger.

Hartfield Walk will be a space for the local community to stimulate ideas and encourage a shift in mindset towards a more eco-conscious life. Every aspect of the new space has been carefully designed with sustainability as the core focus, from bee-friendly and carbon-capturing plants, to furniture and seating which has been sourced from sustainable/ethical suppliers or been reclaimed, recycled and is biodegradable. New murals and children’s floor games have also developed the environmental language – more details to come!

The project itself was developed in collaboration with Wimbledon-based creative agency Firecracker Works, a majority local team, who have a dedication to sustainability and consideration of the environmental impact of the materials they source and use. The organisation has recently become a member of Isla, a non-profit organisation focused on accelerating and transitioning the events industry towards a sustainable future, and hence offers solutions that are efficient, economical, and sustainable.

Sustainable Materials

The much-needed seating in this space, has been constructed from oak, reclaimed from The Grand Union Canal lock gates. The gates are replaced every 25 years, and in the process, they are dismantled and the metal within is recycled. It is the metal content, bars and pins that create the black and blue tannin staining which you can see present on the seating.

The construction of the kiosks, planters and seating in Hartfield Walk has also seen use of locally sourced and responsibly grown timber and Oriented Strand Board (OSB). The former derives from well-managed forests and/or verified and recycled sources, approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), whilst the latter is a material made from waste – large wood shavings that are formed together to produce a sheet material. Plus, the kiosks have been finished with shade-tolerant meadow flowers covering the roof!

Decorating with a Difference

Water-based paints were chosen, where possible, to add a pop of colour to the Harfield Walk furniture. Such paints have a significantly lower environmental impact than traditional solvent-based products, due to their low level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are harmful chemicals carbon-containing substances that vaporize at room temperature and enter the atmosphere. Over time, these chemicals are be released into the air through a process called off-gassing.

Selecting paints that are highly durable, last longer and don’t require repeated cleaning, was also considered, to reduce maintenance cycles and limit the amount of paint used, on aspects such as the kiosks.

Eco-conscious Ambience

Outdoor festoon lighting will help to continue the ambience of Hartfield Walk into the evening. The lights are all LED, which is known to reduce waste as the bulbs rarely require replacing, and are also controlled by light sensors.

Plant Selection

The large variety of plants that can be seen throughout Hartfield Walk, include a range of climbers, bulbs, herbs, shrubs and perennials, species that are powerful in their pollinating properties and have bee-friendly flowers, as well as those which help combat pollution, such as Amelanchier and Betula. These plants can capture and temporarily hold pollutant particles, take up gaseous pollutants and absorb heavy metals from soils. 50% of the plants in Hartfield Walk are also drought tolerant, meaning that they can continue to boost local biodiversity, even in less ideal conditions.

 

Hartfield Walk will be fully open to the public in late March. Check our social media for regular updates.

Remember to Love Wimbledon, Be Local and Love Local.