TEMPORARY green spaces are set to pop up across St Helier as part of the first stage in a pilot project to improve the public realm.
The initiative has been developed by consultant Sasha Gibb – working with the government and a number of partners from the private sector – following public research she conducted last year.
Over the course of the next few months, areas such as the space in Dumaresq Street outside the entrance to de Gruchy’s and the surroundings of the pétanque terrain at the Weighbridge are due to be given makeovers to make them better places for the public to gather.
Commenting on ‘Public Voice – Common Ground’, Mrs Gibb explained: ‘It is a really simple thing which is about enabling the public realm to be better for those who it really stands to benefit the most. At the moment the public realm is very much something which is done to you.’
She added: ‘We want to enable cultural opportunities for those walking to work, or in their daily business. That’s where we can make the biggest impact to the whole community. I am very aware – and I feel very strongly about this – that I don’t want to live in a community that is for one sector but for all demographics and all age groups.’
The pop-up green spaces, developed with the support of a range of partners in the public and private sectors, constitute the first step in what Mrs Gibb hopes will be a much wider public engagement in the quest to make St Helier a more attractive place for the third or so of the Island’s population who live there, and for those working there or visiting.
It is an initiative which has the support of the government’s Future Places Ministerial Group and the Arts, Culture and Heritage Department.
At the Weighbridge, with the support of the Jersey Development Company, the plan is to create a multi-use space that integrates the pétanque area within a temporary grassed area with a maze for children and open space where, as Mrs Gibb puts it, ‘those working and living nearby can eat their lunch and just be’.
A similar transformation is planned for the area in Dumaresq Street. Working with Parks and Gardens’ senior operations manager, Bruce Labey, Mrs Gibb plans to introduce planting around a small acoustic stage, and discussions are currently in train with Andium over provision of a third space in St Helier.
‘I think our public places need to work a bit harder,’ Mrs Gibb explained.
To drive the initiative, she wants to engage with the public to find out just what it is that makes people feel comfortable in their surroundings, She is meeting students, groups from charities and others who might not automatically engage. But she urges others to complete an online survey, available in Portuguese and Polish as well as English at surveymonkey.com/r/KX57CCS.
Mrs Gibb hopes that a strong response from those who want a more attractive environment in St Helier will then allow potential funders to invest in those improvements.
‘I’d like 10,000 voices. I want it to be categorical and unequivocal,’ she said.