Potential view of Fenham Hall Drive Pocket Park

Community groups in the North East have been awarded a share of a dedicated £1.5 million fund by the Department for Communities and Local Government to transform neglected urban spaces into green oases for everyone to use.

One of these lucky projects is Fenham Hall Drive Pocket Park, in Newcastle with the successful application being submitted by Fenham Association of Residents.

Increasing the availability of green space draws more people outside, giving residents, particularly in urban areas without gardens of their own, more space to relax, get together with their neighbours, grow food and provide a safe space for their children to play.

Now four community groups in the North East including Fenham Hall Drive Pocket Park will have a share of over £52,000 to create their own ‘dream’ pocket parks, developing small parcels of land sometimes as small as the size of a tennis court.

Fenham Hall Drive Pocket Park, Newcastle – Fenham Association of Residents

The residents of Fenham in Newcastle upon Tyne have access to services but nowhere to take breath from the busy main road. They identified the area between the library and pool as an underused and uninviting space – currently a basic grassed site. The pocket park will provide opportunity for people to connect with nature in an otherwise harsh urban environment.  Trees will provide homes for wildlife; and volunteers from the local school and allotment are keen to support the project to create wider educational activities. The end result will see a space created between the library, allotments and swimming pool which encourages playing outside, sitting in the sun and relaxing in the open air.

The Pocket Park concept was born out of another collaborative community project with Sustrans, entitled “DIY Streets” part of the Cycle City Ambition Fund scheme.  It was developed in partnership with Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, as part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Co-Production Impact Accelerator Account Project.

Residents took part in workshops where they imagined how they could transform spaces along Fenham Hall Drive. They identified a need for a place where they could sit and watch the world go by and where children could happily play. The “DIY Streets” project culminated with a pop-up public/play space between the library and pool for four days, giving members of the public and residents the opportunity to test the design proposal.

This experience strengthened the desire for the community and all the partners involved – members of the City Council, local residents, Fenham Association of Residents (FAR), Fenham Library, Fenham Swimming Pool, Sustrans, Your Homes Newcastle, Newcastle University School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape and Fenham New Model Allotments – to seek funding for what they now call a hub for Fenham Hall Drive, a space that will become reality thanks to the Pocket Park funding.

Councillor David Stockdale, cabinet member for communities and facilities at Newcastle City Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Fenham and a great example of a community coming together.  Green spaces in a developing city like ours are so important and so I am really pleased that all of the hard work that went into developing the idea of a pocket park on Fenham Hall Drive has paid off.  I know it will be well used and much loved and I want to thank everyone involved for making it happen.”

Cllr Marion Talbot, a City Council ward member for Fenham is commenting on behalf of fellow ward members Cllrs Karen Kilgour and Ian Tokell. Cllr.Talbot said: “The pocket park will provide something for everyone to enjoy with its environmental, educational and social qualities.

“It has been refreshing the way residents, community groups and organisations have all joined together to make this project happen; and unite with a common goal of providing something extra special for the area.  This has been a real coup for Fenham. To have so many prominent professional and academic representatives, from such places as, Newcastle University and Sustrans all pulling their specialist skills together – to create a wonderful conversation piece that will add an extra dimension to the local community.  It is forging invaluable working relationships that could prosper in years to come.”

Kieran McSherry, Design Manager for Sustrans, said: “It’s great to see that the Sustrans DIY streets project in Fenham has inspired local residents to think of ways to improve this part of Newcastle. Working with local people to redesign their neighbourhoods helps ensure they get the space they want, that will be well used. The pocket park will allow the local community to find an oasis of calm on an otherwise busy street.”

Daniel Mallo, lecturer in Architecture at Newcastle University, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to work in partnership with a leading organisation in the urban environment, such as Sustrans, and use our research expertise in participatory design as part of the DIY Streets project.

“It was also a great opportunity for our PhD and graduate students to get involved in a research project that can have a real impact in the lives of communities in Fenham and whose outcome will be even more tangible with the realisation of the Pocket Park”.

The groundworks for the project will be prepared in due course.  They will work alongside a series of design workshops with residents to ensure they are fully involved in the design process of their pocket park.
The aimed completion date for the Fenham Hall Drive Pocket Park is this coming summer.

The other three North East projects to receive funding include Snipe Pond Wild Park, Darlington – Friends of Snipe Pond; Weyhil Pocket Park, North Tyneside – Cedarwood Trust; and Red Lion Community Park, Redcar – Zetland Pride.