Inspiring Infrastructure: Rhode Lane, Bridgwater

Rhode Lane after street design work

Street improvements to the area outside the shops at Rhode Lane, is the first of the infrastructure elements to be delivered through DIY Streets, in partnership with Somerset County Council, as part of the Bridgwater Way walking and cycling project which combines the delivery of infrastructure with a focus on community empowerment.

The objective is to work with the community to create more vibrant and social spaces that in turn will encourage higher levels of walking and cycling.

The need

The shopping area on Rhode Lane was built in the early 1950s to provide a local centre, and focus for community activity for the Hamp estate. The location comprises of a number of shopping units and residential flats facing onto a large green space (Sunnybank), which are divided by a main road. Increasing traffic speeds and volumes made it difficult for people to cross from the shops to green space, and years of neglect had made the area feel tired and run down. There were also concerns about anti-social behaviour.

The design process

After working closely with both the community and county council highways engineers, a framework identifying key locations for improvement was agreed. The design process consisted of 8 Design workshops, held between August and September 2013, attended by around 180 residents, and county council highways engineers. Designs were then agreed, and drawn up in detail.

The resulting scheme

The agreed designs are based around shared space principles. A raised table reduces traffic speed entering into the space, easing cycling and pedestrian movement both across and along the road. A number of patterns and markings provide informal crossing points connecting the shops to the green space in front. Seating, both formal and informal is provided throughout, and planting with a number of small ‘pocket parks’ soften the landscape, and provide further opportunities for people to socialise.

A low, perforated wall replaces a previous fence running along the edge of the green space. The wall, inspired by a local street, has become a place for children to play on, whilst the parents sit and chat. Residents have also begun planting behind the wall. Other elements built into the final design include level access into all of the shopping units.

As well as elements funded directly through the DIY Streets programme, the process has also been an opportunity to demonstrate to stakeholders such as the local authority, and housing association, where other funding would be usefully spent. This has resulted in building improvements and shop fascia improvements that complement the scheme.

The project is due to complete in March 2015, with a number of infrastructure elements programmed for completion prior to this.

For further information on the project, please contact Patrick Williams, Sustrans’ Senior Project Officer, DIY Streets Bridgwater.