Oriel Place Garden Project

UPDATE: This project is due to start on w/c 17 February 2020. The improvement should last 6-7 weeks. This will then be followed by general works on Oriel Place afterwards.

The opening up of the garden has been a long standing ambition of the local community, with the project being recognised and named as a priority in the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan which was developed by the local community over a number years and included a high level of local engagement, consultation and a local referendum.

The project was also included in engagement around how to spend local Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which asked residents to prioritise the projects they wished to see funded. Oriel Place Garden was strongly supported through this process and identified by the community as one of the intended recipients of funding.  Further information about the neighbourhood plan and CIL projects can be found on the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum website.

The design for Oriel Place garden was developed with key stakeholders in the local area including local residents, the Heath and Hampstead Society, the Hampstead BID and ward Councillors.  Best practise principles for ‘designing out crime’ were followed which recommend open spaces with clear sight lines to encourage use, rather than misuse. There is no resource for locking and unlocking a gate on a daily basis here and it was felt that leaving the current fence and gate in place could create a sense of separation and isolation, which would be intimidating for some, and would be more likely to attract undesirable activity.

During design discussions, preference was for an open ‘piazza’ like space, that integrated seamlessly with the walkway.  We feel the current design achieves a careful balancing act, opening up a currently closed space and encouraging acceptable use of the space for an urban environment such as this.  Even the most carefully designed space may not manage to design out every issue, but we work to minimise them as much as possible through the design, and will respond to any misuse appropriately. This could be through community or enforcement interventions, or future design modifications.

From early on in the design discussions with the community it has been acknowledged that a fence line could be relooked at if required in the future.  Resource does not currently exist within the council to facilitate daily opening and closing, and so this would need to be agreed with a community organisation or local business.

Concerns about potential anti-social behaviour have been raised by a number of residents who neighbour the space, particularly in the evening. Careful consideration was given during the design process to incorporate principles which would minimise the risk of anti-social behaviour. This included liaising with representatives from community safety, highways, green spaces, and public spaces cleansing teams.  Aspects of the design which responds to these concerns include:

  • Limiting the amount of fixed seating, and ensuring arm rests are present to deter sleeping. The placement of benches is also away from nearby residential windows.
  • Providing lighting to ensure good visibility into the space in the evenings, and make the space less attractive to those who may not wish to be disturbed
  • Ensuring a clean, open design allowing good sight lines into the space with no hiding spots, and a space that is easy to clean

Since concerns were raised, including at the Hampstead Safety Forum, we have met again with the Council’s Community Safety and Community Presence Officers who had no objection to the proposed design and believed it will be beneficial to the community, creating a new accessible space. It was acknowledged that the space should be monitored once completed to ensure that it does not become a gathering point for rough sleepers or street drinkers.  Good design does not claim to stop all crime and anti-social behaviour, these are often the result of wider social issues.  Good design does however aim to minimise the potential for anti-social behaviour and misuse of a space.

Further concerns have been raised around noise in Hampstead in general, especially that connected with local public houses, and the risk of these users congregating in the garden.  In response to this local establishments are being reminded that their patrons are not allowed to use any outdoor space that hasn’t been included in their license, and that establishments have a responsibility to monitor and ensure their patrons remain on their premises.  They also need to ensure patrons disperse quietly and quickly once they leave the establishment.   Any issues and / or breaches can be raised with the licensing enforcement team who will investigate and take appropriate action.  Any other noise complaints can be logged here, where they will be investigated.

At the request of the local community a power supply was included in the design, to provide the opportunity for small scale events and stalls to utilise the space. Currently an annual Santa’s Grotto is held in the space, and it is this kind of event that the community wished to encourage more of, without the need for noisy and polluting generators.  In response to local residents concerns we are reviewing the need for a power supply here.  If a power supply is included in the final scheme, any use would require approval, which would involve careful consideration over what is an acceptable use of this public space.

For your information we have attached a list of specific concerns raised during the recent engagement, along with our response.  Currently we hope to move forward with resurfacing the garden in the summer.  This will coincide with work to relay the paving slabs along Oriel Place walkway, and allow us to address the current uneven levels within the garden.

Proud member of The BID Foundation