Chiswick Flower Market launches plans for improving Old Market Place

Image above: Stall outlining plans to improve the area around the car park outside George IV, at Sunday’s flower market

‘Rationalising’ the space, not revolutionising it

Chiswick Flower Market has unveiled it plans to improve Old Market Place, the car park area outside the row of shops alongside George IV and the abandoned police station which is now used for Sunday markets.

The Flower Market team has employed landscape architect Luke Greysmith to redesign the area to upgrade the crumbling infrastructure. He spoke to The Chiswick Calendar on Sunday to explain what they had in mind.

Image above: Landscape architect Luke Greysmith on one of the benches Chiswick Flower Market would like to replace

Looking at Chiswick’s town centre with a fresh pair of eyes

Luke is based in St Albans, which he considers an advantage when assessing the centre of Chiswick, as he comes to it with a fresh pair of eyes.

“I look at the space and I can see why it is like it is. Street spaces are always evolving and there is always room to improve and enhance an area when there is an appetite for it. There are some broken bits and I think it could be better.”

He is referring to “Crumbling kerbs, broken paving, poor lighting, dilapidated benches” which flower market director Karen Liebreich talked about in her guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar last week.

READ ALSO: Crumbling kerbs, broken paving, poor lighting, dilapidated benches” – the centre of Chiswick needs an upgrade

“It’s interesting. I was talking to one woman at the market, explaining the proposals and she asked why anything needed doing, ‘there’s nothing wrong with it’, but when I pointed out the broken brickwork and a few things like that she noticed it. If you walk past it all the time, you don’t really see it.”

Images above: Current infrastructure in need of repair

More flowerbeds

The plans are not very radical at all, He is talking about taking out the concrete buffer which runs the length of the car park between the cars and the wall dividing it from Chiswick High Rd, and replacing it with a flower bed.

“We could plant that. There would still be a buffer for cars because there would still be a raised kerb but it would reduce the surface water  by absorbing some of it when it rained and it would look nicer.”

Images above: Plans include getting rid of the concrete buffer and replacing it with a flower bed

Taking a bit from here and adding a bit there

He is talking about “rationalising” the layout rather than revolutionising it; making better use of the space by widening the pavement here and taking a bit away there, getting rid of the ugly cobbles alongside the wall of the old police station (which he thinks may have been put there originally to dissuade people from walking too close to the wall and peering in at the police through the windows, though there are no windows there now).

Once you really start looking, the place is littered with objects which no longer serve any purpose – redundant telephone boxes, a Virgin Media cabinet he thinks is no longer in use. A lot of the services infrastructure – telecoms and water pipes – are buried on the side where the shops are, so they can not put flower beds in along there, but they are thinking of moving the area where delivery bikes congregate opposite Chateau so the entrance to the space is more welcoming.

Images above: Redundant phone box; broken cobbles alongside the empty police station; ugly flower bed

Reducing the number of parking spaces

What about parking? It is after all Chiswick’s central car park and losing parking spaces is likely to be controversial.

Currently the survey shows 52 spaces with an additional two indicated as police only.  The new design would reduce that to 44 he says. The spaces need to be withdrawn because they no longer fit the British Parking Association guidelines (though these are guidelines, they do not have the force of law).

The minimum standard size for car park spaces according to these regulations is 4.8 x 2.4 metres, but 5 x 2.5 is preferred, especially as the size of cars has been getting bigger and it is is often hard to get out of the driver’s side if there is a big 4×4 parked alongside.

Some of the Old Market Place car park spaces are smaller than the recommended minimum. One in particular has become redundant because of tree roots. Accessible parking bays do not have the required clear zones for wheelchair access, and there is no dedicated loading bay.

Image above: The motorcycle bay at the end of Linden Gardens

Providing for cargo bikes, electric charging points, cycles and proper spaces for disabled people

Luke’s proposals redrawing the parking spaces to the minimum recommended size, include two wheelchair accessible spaces with the required clear zone and a loading bay.

He is suggesting the angled parking from the Devonshire Rd entrance to the George IV remains more or less as it is and as the space widens out towards the empty police station building he proposes redrawing the shape of the space (which currently does not allow for the recommended reversing space) to fit everything in more neatly – loading bay, disabled spaces, places to park cargo bikes, electric charging points.

The angled parking is quite useful, he says, because there is at the moment a triangle of wasted space, but this could easily be used to accommodate electric charging points without losing any other amenities. “Up to 12 spaces could readily accommodate electric vehicle charging points.”

Cycle racks he is proposing to dot about throughout the space. The measured survey indicates a total of eight cycle ‘Sheffield’ stands currently (two bikes per stand). The proposed layout accommodates 19 cycle stands.

He is also suggesting the kind of raised road surface alongside the pub where the space narrows which encourages cars to slow down.

“I have been surprised how engaged people are with the project” he told me. The stall was busy on Sunday with people looking at the pictures of the plans and asking questions. Some said they would like to get rid of the car park all together.

“It’s not realistic to make it completely green” he told me. “There needs to be parking spaces and cars animate a space. I like to see things mixed, so there are all sorts of activities for all sorts of uses.  Pedestrianisation can make it a dead space at night.”

The full details are available to see here: Chiswick Flower Market public realm concept proposal

The flower market is describing it as a ‘co-design’ as they would like as many people as possible who live locally to have a look at the proposals and add their comments, so when they present them to Hounslow Council and start trying to raise funds to get it done, the proposal is as good as it can be