Councillors to consider Shoreditch Park improvements as plans move forward

Shoreditch Park proposed playground, artist’s impression. Photograph: Hackney Parks Service.

Hackney councillors are set to consider the latest plans for improvements to Shoreditch Park.

A meeting preparatory to any decision will study the proposals following a consultation with locals last year on the plans, which include a new children’s play area, a beach volleyball court and outdoor gym, and new trees and seats.

The Town Hall is also looking at the installation of a running track around the rim of the park, rain gardens, the removal of wide sections of the boundary railings, and relocating the Javelin Thrower sculpture, which had previously rested at the entrance to the old Britannia Leisure Centre, within an envisaged sports hub area.

A report from the Town Hall’s parks service reads: “Shoreditch Park is one of the largest parks in the south of the borough. As such it plays an important role in providing access to open space for the surrounding community, in an area of the borough which is identified as being deficient in access to open space.

“The area surrounding the park has experienced a significant amount of new development in recent years including the Colville Estate redevelopment, Britannia Leisure Centre development, and other development within Shoreditch / along City Road.

“As such improvements to the park have been planned to ensure it can continue to meet the open space, leisure and biodiversity requirements of the surrounding area.”

The Town Hall went out to consult on the future of the park’s improvements back in August 2019, since which time development on the new Britannia Leisure Centre has moved ahead, along with the associated plans for the demolition of the old centre to be replaced with new homes and a secondary school, with a new public square forming the north of the new building.

Sports Hub & Tree Plaza. Photograph: Hackney parks service.

The consultation responses released in January of last year saw respondents calling for improved quality of the grassed areas and removal of potholes, as well as high numbers of people who use the park for exercise pointing to the lack of outdoor equipment.

A majority of the 1,600 people also made calls for an increase in the number of trees and planting, toilet facilities, and an upgrade to the playground, with a many saying the play area is one of their favourite things about the park.

Many also raised concerns and issues on crime and safety, with additional lighting and more staff called for, while a “high number” of respondents expressed concerns about the speed of cyclists who use the park as a cut-through, leading to suggestions for pedestrian-only paths.

The proposed children’s play area will be located in a similar place to the existing one with new and improved equipment, with the Town Hall saying that “local priorities” shaped the proposals.

The report added: “There is an emphasis on improved ecology, improved play provision, improved accessibility and more opportunities to spend time in the park. Overall the plans show a significant upgrade to the park with many exciting ideas.”

The report does reveal a number of “remaining questions and unresolved details” over the plans which councillors will be examining, including officer doubts around the removal of gates and railings, with the report arguing that while this would create a “wilder and more naturalistic edge to the park…it might not translate literally into a better park design in practice”.

A sculpture outside the Britannia Leisure Centre
The sculpture outside the old Britannia Leisure Centre.

According to the Town Hall’s park service, the proposal to remove large areas of railings goes against the current trend in the capital to replace railings which had been removed, pointing to the positive impact of railings in creating “secure spaces which are visually permeable”, as well as creating areas with low footfall and so devoted to nature.

The report makes clear that if the railings to the park are proposed to be removed in any final planning application, it would have to be based on evidence of other examples of successful schemes, while raising the possibility of a loosely defined perimeter of hedges.

Officers are also looking at the planting of semi-mature lime, maple, oak and beech trees, with additional planting around the edges of the park to be looked at.

The parks service added: “Lighting has been mentioned in the consultation. People will use the park at night given the open perimeter and lighting creates a perception of safety. The lighting strategy should reflect the latest in lighting thinking. It should reduce light pollution to the minimum.

“The colour temperature of the lighting should not affect circadian rhythm, areas of the park should be allowed to be dark with light being used to direct people along a very limited number of routes.”

You can read more about the plans here.