Reclaiming Totterdown's streets

November 28 2015
Reclaiming Totterdown's streets

BOLD proposals to change the way Totterdown is dominated by the car are being suggested by a group of architecture students – and they want to hear what residents think.

BOLD proposals to change the way Totterdown is dominated by the car are being suggested by a group of architecture students – and they want to hear what residents think.

Called Reclaiming Totterdown, the plans are the most radical ideas to change the Totterdown streetscape since the environmental vandalism of the 1960s tore down many of the area’s Victorian streets.

The proposal has been commissioned by Tresa, the Totterdown residents group, and were presented to a meeting of the group on November 18.

The area affected is the zone of mainly steep streets between Wells Road and Bath Road, including New Walls and Stanley Hill – all affected by narrow roads, a lack of parking and crowded pavements making it difficult to walk or cycle.

Ideas include slowing traffic by changing the roadscape so it feels more like a pedestrian space, and installing small structures to accommodate bicycles, seating or rubbish bins to make the roads more useful and safer.

Green spaces are another vital element – the aim is to improve areas like the small park in Angers Road and the community orchard in Park Street, and make stronger links with other green areas such as Zone A on Wells Road.

“We want to produce a healthier and safer pedestrian environment and reduce vehicular activity,” said Elliott Ballam, a first year masters architecture student at UWE, as the group introduced the plans at the Tresa meeting.

The plans will not make permanent changes to the road – they will all be removeable, so they should not need traffic orders issued by the council.

Ideas include painting the road – with non-permanent paint – to make drivers slow down, and installing “parklets” or small structures by the kerb.

These will reduce parking somewhat but can also help to make it more efficient by marking out spaces more clearly so all the space is used, said Elliott.

A street survey carried out by the four-strong UWE team found that slowing traffic was a high priority for residents.

Another plea was to make cycling easier. Some residents said they would cycle to town if there was somewhere secure to leave their bike. The students suggest installing lockable bike stores, popular in London.

A store at the bottom of Summer Hill would save people dragging their bike home.

The team also suggests cutting the number of refuse bins by making them shared. In Goolden Street, where many houses are split into four flats, rows of bins can block the pavement.

People at the Tresa meeting welcomed the idea, some saying that in other European countries people are used to making a short walk to a communal bin.

One resident of New Walls said the estate already has shared bins which he prefers, even though the council has given him his own.

The students want to declutter the streets with fewer signs and making one-ways clearer.

They suggested many improvements are possible to green spaces.

Zone A on Wells Road could be replanted and could also host a community shop to sell allotment produce, they suggested. The small park on Angers Road is not much used even though there is a path through it which makes a route to Bath Road. Some don’t realise it is public space, the students found.

They suggest lopping some of the trees on the lower side to open the space and make it more welcoming – at the moment it’s felt that use is restricted to dog walkers and drunks, said Elliott.

Tresa supporters at the meeting welcomed the proposals. One pleaded for the need to keep access easy for dustcarts and other larger vehicles.

Another predicted that any loss of parking would be a burning issue.  

But Carolyn Jones, deputy chair of Tresa, said the plans could make a real difference to the problems caused by traffic in the affected streets.

“Quite a lot of the traffic problems in Totterdown are not caused by people who live in Totterdown, it’s from people coming up from Bath Road to Wells Road, and if we can design something so that calm is returned, that’s an ideal situation, rather than putting up barriers, which is against the ethos of what Totterdown is,” she said.

Deborah Joffe, the Green councillor for Windmill Hill, called it “a very exciting idea.”

“I’m particularly keen on linking up the parks and making more green spaces. Zone A will definitely benefit, and that benefits the whole of Totterdown. What’s not to like?”

The students road-tested the idea on Stanley Hill during the Front Room art trail, and reported that they won many positive comments.

• To comment on the ideas, search for the Tresa page on Facebook or email