We attended the consultation for Eagle Brewery Wharf proposals on 25th November. Farrer Huxley were appointed in February to take forward the initial designs by Davies White and have produced a thoughtful concept for this important riverside space. It was helpful that some elements of the design: the river edge seating and the activity platform, where chalked out to scale to better aid visualising the elements. The scheme’s main components (as stated on the exhibition boards) are:
• New seating and trees have been introduced to the riverfront. • A playful platform in the centre of the space offers informal seating and invites different activities, such as busking or small open-air performances. • Planters are used to separate private and public space. • The existing green edge is made more biodiverse with insect and pollinator friendly planting. • A play trail is nestled within the green edge. • Different types of seating are provided for both quiet relaxation and more lively, social activities. • Table tennis tables and picnic tables where board games can be played, provide opportunities for intergenerational play and activities. • The design allows for a wide a range of uses. This will create a well-used, well-loved and safe place.
Of particular interest is the river side seating. The asymmetric ‘playful seating pods’ have been designed to connect users with the river but will oblige passing pedestrians to pass around them away from the river. This is a brave idea given that by accepted convention the river edge is free from obstruction. We imagine though these seats will become much sought after and though we expressed our reservations we admire the ambition. This choice also reflects earlier public feedback.
The paving will be key as inevitably users will be eating and drinking and we would like to see paviours that are better resistant to grease etc than in the market square. Also being considered is the nature of the river boundary wall, with suggestions from no boundary at all to a well designed railing. We feel that since this area will be a ‘kiddy magnet’ and that as the river edge is raised here the safe solution is a railing.
The over-arching aim of the design is to animate the space and the designers hope this will be achieved because:
• The space includes a play trail for climbing, jumping, balancing and exploring. • Activities such as board games and table tennis have been included as a response to public feedback. • Picnic tables allow families to eat outside. • A central platform provides space for a informal activities such as busking, small open-air performances, pop-up exhibitions / markets and community workshops.
Elsewhere the proposals cover in detail the type of planting which cleverly reflects the river and the historic brewery use. Perhaps taking a leaf from the Friends of Queens Promenade (FQP) it was interesting that the council is hoping volunteer gardeners might help with maintaining the pocket park. And whilst this arguably is a transfer of responsibilities the evidence of the success of FQP leads us to recognise that public involvement at a grass roots level (sorry!) is a powerful and perhaps necessary part of community spirit.
We consider this scheme to be both imaginative and achievable and support the proposals