Posts Tagged ‘city centres’

Reclaim the Streets

May 16, 2020

We hear the sound of birdsong, the streets are traffic free, the cities are pollution free.

There can be no return to normal as normal was not normal.

We have been jolted into another now. We must maintain our city centres car and pollution free.

The first businesses to reopen coffee shops, tables outside, social distancing maintained,  dwell time relatively short.

To achieve this, coffee shops need to be able to spread out into the streets, out into the squares, the norm in Athens, indeed the norm across Europe, when one coffee shop in Lincoln requested this they received an emphatic no from Lincolnshire County Council, not even the courtesy of an explanation.

Unfortunately we will not agree to you increasing the number of tables and chairs you use or the size of the area that you have at the current time (your enclosure needs to still be only outside the frontage of your premises).

Kick starting the local economy, improving the ambience, worthless council jobsworths don’t give a damn.

Our High Streets were dying before the covid-19 pandemic. The loss of Big Business, corporate chains, from the High Street is no great loss, it was destroying the High Street. If we are to recover it will be through small local independent businesses.  That is why we must allow indie coffee shops, and only indie coffee shops not chains, next restaurants, to expand into the streets. Not pubs and bars as we do not want drunks on the streets.

Local businesses spreading into public space helps everyone, safeguarding staff and clientele through social distancing, improves the ambience of the locality, especially if No Smoking, and for many local businesses it will mean life or death, the difference whether they survive or not.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has recognised people are going to be reluctant to use public transport  therefore we have to encourage walking and cycling if we do not wish traffic levels to rise. But if wishes to improve cycling and walking, must also make our city centres more attractive by encouraging local councils to facilitate indie coffee shops and restaurants to spread out into our streets.

Deliveries to the pedestrianised areas,  park on the periphery and deliver by handcart or trolley.

Sheffield, an unusual city in that prior to the covid-19 pandemic a city on the up, a marked contrast to most decaying cities. And why? Independent businesses everywhere.

BBC Radio 4 The Food Programme recently featured Sheffield, the focus on how indie food businesses were bringing life back to Sheffield. With the exception of Marmadukes I would not agree with their choice of examples, but the gist yes. I could list several examples, South Street Kitchen, Marmadukes, Steam YardSheffield Cheese Masters, Bullion bean to bar craft chocolate, ShuJu Taiwanese pop-up kitchen at Union St.

Mention also needs to be made of Now Then, an indie magazine that features local culture and indie businesses, interesting articles and art, well worth seeking out.

Through reclaiming the streets, we are operating at the interface between business, environment and society, a component part of Doughnut Economics, where the local economy is designed to be regenerative and distributive, with people and the environment at its heart.  We kick cars out of our town centres, we plant trees, we improve the ambience, we create a space where local businesses and communities can thrive, breathe clean air, or simply relax with a  good coffee, read a book, sit and watch the world go by.

One of my favourite places to sit and relax, Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop, not far from The Acropolis.

In Exarchia, an anarchist district of Athens, they set up road blocks, boxes with plants,  created traffic free zones. The city authorities also act, they are extending the pedestrianised areas around The Acropolis.