A Healthy Heart to the City, Pt 2

Did you know there’s a carp pond on Coney Street? Neither did we until we were designing a little walking visit for our StreetLife workshop with York Civic Trust. In case you’re wondering... which you surely are... it’s inside the peace garden at St Martin’s. We got behind those mysterious gates, with thanks to the St Martin’s PCC, and while taking a peak at the carp, considered the opportunities for greenery and nature on the street.

A StreetLife walking visit to the Peace Garden on Coney Street.
StreetLife walking visit to the Peace Garden on Coney Street

More broadly, we invited participants to think about environmental sustainability on Coney Street. We posed the following questions to our participants, and Stephen Lee Hodgkins captured the answers in visual minutes with his amazing doodles.

  • What are your top priorities for making Coney Street more sustainable?
  • Where on Coney Street would you add greenery?
'Visual minutes' from a StreetLife workshop by Stephen Lee Hodgkins
'Visual minutes' from a StreetLife workshop by Stephen Lee Hodgkins

Here are a few key points from our participants:

  1. Places for planting
    Depending on where you stand on business deliveries by bike or keeping the van (at least for now) planting a river of green down the centre of the street is more or less viable. There are plenty of imaginative suggestions for planting that take up little space: climbing plants, window boxes, hanging baskets, planted window displays, trees in moveable pots, and planting bikes or trailers that can easily be wheeled out the way during delivery hours. The riverside and St Martin’s church are two key areas for greenery that do not require any vehicular access.
  2. Maintenance awareness
    It’s easy to focus on the benefits of planting on streets: their proven stress-relieving, wellbeing-enhancing, and even crime-reducing impacts. Our savvy participants recognise that to achieve those benefits long-term, someone needs to be tending to green spaces. Caring for plants, or creating safe and clean spaces for everyone to enjoy. That means funding, an established volunteer brigade or, more likely, professional support. This needs to be taken into account when setting out greenery plans for the street.
  3. Loving what we’ve got
    Adaptive reuse over demolition, to reduce the CO2 emissions of demolition and construction phases. That means learning to love the twentieth-century additions to the street as well as their more aesthetically pleasing ancestors! As well as whole building demolition, participants highlight that the common practice of gutting and refitting shops on changeover is also highly unsustainable, suggesting instead flexibly designed spaces that can visually adapt more easily.
  4. Rethinking deliveries
    Last mile delivery by bike will soon be trialled elsewhere in York, (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-61910025 and https://yorkmix.com/last-mile-delivery-trial-aims-to-cut-york-city-cent…). A bike delivery hub or even delivery by Ouse is suggested for Coney Street too.
  5. Thinking long-term
    A bit of planting doesn’t equal a sustainable place. Strategic planning, and relationships between owners, tenants, and the council are highlighted as crucial for long-term sustainability success.
A StreetLife walking visit to the rear of 29-31 Coney Street.
The visit to the rear of the StreetLife Hub (29-31 Coney StreetLife)

Many thanks to our wonderful participants for contributing to a topic which surely has to be central and ongoing to any discussions about regenerating a high street. We couldn’t possibly have covered everything in our two hour workshop, but we hope the conversation will continue!