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

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market; photograph Anna Kunst

Co-design Initiative for Chiswick High Road’s Old Market Place

Guest blog by Dr Karen Liebreich MBE, co-director of Chiswick Flower Market

Nearly three years ago we launched the first market – the monthly Chiswick Flower Market – in the centre of the High Road. Following in our wake came more Sunday markets, a higher profile for Chiswick with positive press coverage, and a general atmosphere of “buzziness” about the area. As well as aiding a commercial uptick on the high street, the markets have become a successful centre of community life, organising celebrations for occasions such as the Platinum Jubilee, the Coronation, and Christmas lighting.

But even a cursory glance at the infrastructure of our centre reveals crumbling kerbs, broken paving, poor lighting, dilapidated benches, non-compliant parking spaces, poor pedestrian signage, flooding, constrained tree roots, as well as collapsing walls which are potentially dangerous to passers-by. The area between 167 and 211 Chiswick High Road (or as it has come to be known, Old Market Place) was last modernised decades ago and is no longer fit for purpose.

Images above: Examples of the crumbling infrastructure of Old Market Place

Detail of plans launched last October

Last year the Flower Market team – all local residents working pro bono – asked independent landscape architect Luke Greysmith to come up with some initial proposals for Old Market Place. We presented these at a well-attended public meeting in October 2022, and also showed them to the councillors, to various council/public officers, including transport, regeneration, arboriculture, and the police, as well as to local businesses.

Taking feedback from all this, and also using topographic surveys, land ownership information, buried services, etc the proposals have now been further elaborated.

The aim of these proposals is absolutely not to remove all parking places from the centre. The existing parking spaces are no longer compliant with British Parking Association regulations, cars have become larger, loading bays have disappeared, disabled access needs improving.

This current proposal retains 44 spaces. There is currently no public seating in Old Market Place, no proper lighting, the space is littered with defunct electric cabinets and phone boxes, and rubbish collection areas are insufficient and ugly. We need more greenery in our lives.

Image above: Chiswick Cheese Market in May

‘Whenever possible, do nice things first’ says the Government

The usage of the area is developing with the introduction of weekend markets, community events and entertainment. Chiswick deserves a civic centre that serves all members of the community.

The latest thinking from the government’s Office for Place on creating “beautiful and safe high streets” could have been written for Chiswick. Here are some of the main conclusions:

–           You need a clear vision of a better, busier, more prosperous and lovely place.

–           Find a thousand different ways to fill your town centre with people.

–           Create homes.

–           No one organisation, and certainly not the council alone, can regenerate a high street or a town centre.

–           Be open to any idea and any suggestion.

–           Get cracking. Don’t wait for perfection.

–           Whenever possible, do nice things first.

Image above: Antiques and Vintage market

Major changes taking place

The closure and sale of the Police Station means that Old Market Place is about to see some major changes and inevitable disruption. However, this also provides an opportunity for funding, and for transforming the area into an attractive, safe, prosperous and green town centre. We must not waste this chance.

We propose rain gardens to catch floods and add greenery and beauty; seating to meet friends and rest, more trees to combat climate change, a flexible space for – whatever the community wants to do. And of course a practical space for parking and shopping.

We would like to invite everyone who cares about the area and uses it to join us in a community-led design initiative.

This initiative is being run by independent social enterprise Create Streets, an organisation that makes it easier “to co-create beautiful, sustainable, prosperous, economically and socially successful places with strong local support and which residents will love for generations.”

The Flower Market team has spent a lot of time thinking about what could work, reviewing how the space is used, and talking to all interested parties. These designs do not represent a done deal, and we genuinely invite input to create the best possible proposals to present to the council.

Image above: Market trader paddles in rainwater 

How will the Co-Design work?

The community design initiative will run through 2nd July – 31st August 2023. We will launch the proposals at the Flower Market on Sunday 2nd July, where visitors can view the plans and chat through with the team.

The interactive map will go live on Sunday, with a hard copy at Chiswick Library, for paper responses from those who do not have access to the internet.

What happens then?

The results will be compiled by Create Streets, and fed back to the Flower Market team. Responses and good suggestions will be incorporated into the plans to be submitted to the council for review and further official council consultation, prior to any implementation.

Is this an official consultation?

This discussion does not replace the London Borough of Hounslow’s official consultation process. We feel there is great benefit in presenting a very local, resident-led and well thought-through proposal, rather than waiting for a top-down borough-led design.

We hope to see you at the Flower Market this Sunday to launch the design proposals. And if not, then via the online Co-design, which will be accessible from the Flower Market website.

Karen Liebreich

Chiswick Flower Market