A neglected Stockport subway will transform into a mini summer festival venue this Thursday in the finale for a series of street trials by the charity Sustrans to demonstrate how creativity can change areas that feel disused or unsafe.
Children will brighten up graffitti walls with mirrored stickers and there will be a samba band and drumming workshop in the park between the subways. Local families are invited for lemonade and cakes.
The subway is a focal point for families living on Lancashire Hill and Heaton Norris and has an attractive park space in the middle of the intersection, but local people say they are afraid to use it. Artist Karen Allerton has worked with the community to paint temporary vibrant directional lines through the subway which help to make entrances more welcoming.
The event is part of an 18-month community street design project by Sustrans with local residents in Heaton Norris and Lancashire Hill. It demonstrates how small design changes in areas dominated by cars and car infrastructure can help reclaim streets for people, by encouraging social interaction, as well as more walking and cycling.
Heaton Norris and Lancashire Hill are close to the Transpennine Trail, a popular walking and cycling route which is part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Network. While thousands of people travel through the area by bicycle or on foot, few local people use the path.
Sustrans community street designer Julieta Duran said: “The Lancashire Hill subway is an important link point for local communities and people accessing the Transpennine Trail, yet it feels neglected and unsafe. Our Summer Festival demonstrates that with a bit of imagination and creativity a functional urban subway can become a vibrant family-friendly space.”
“Over the last 18 months local people have worked with us to trial creative ways to brighten up disused outdoor areas and discourage anti-social behaviour such as dog fouling, littering or graffiti. Now we’re delighted that Stockport Council will invest in improvements to the area and we hope that will lead to future investment from business too.”
The grassroots project aims to demonstrate how communities can transform their streets and public places with simple creative interventions, and attract investment in the long term. Stockport Council has already got behind the scheme, with plans to invest in improved lighting, drainage and vegetation management, as well as a controlled crossing at the top of Lancashire Hill and Belmont Way.
Earlier this month residents on Belmont Street, Heaton Norris painted orange stripes and floral patterns on their street to help slow traffic. A week later they extended the pavement and sat down at a picnic table to enjoy a neighbourly ‘Belmont Street Supper’.
Sustrans also launched the Stockport Arts Trail from Stockport Town Centre to Heaton Norris, which was created by local artist Karen Allerton with the Young Offending Services. The one-mile trail celebrates the area’s importance for the silk industry as well as the natural resources of the river and wildlife.
Past activities in Heaton Norris included art slogans on the streets to discourage dog fouling, a Halloween Festival of Lights in the subway, planting vegetables, bicycle lessons and rides, and children’s outdoor play.
Based on a concept first developed on the streets of New York, Sustrans community designers use simple interventions, such as pop-up outdoor cafes, plants and temporary art installations to calm roads and encourage people to reclaim streets as public spaces.
Sustrans community street projects are funded by the People Health Trust and local government. Stockport Council is behind the transformations taking place in the Central Ward. Additional projects are based in Peckham, Reading, Southend-on-Sea, Derby, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Walsall.