City father builds community garden in parking space for a day

(L-R) Genevieve, Leandra, Ogheneovo, Bertie and Freddie from Nelson Infant school enjoying the 'comm

(L-R) Genevieve, Leandra, Ogheneovo, Bertie and Freddie from Nelson Infant school enjoying the 'community parklet' which has been set up outside - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

When you picture a park, you probably think of wide-open spaces, trees, and maybe a set of swings. But one Norwich man is hoping to shrink expectations and turn city streets into green havens for the community. 

With some reclaimed fake turf, a dozen plants, a parasol and a table and chairs, Liam Calvert took over a small section of the road outside Nelson Infant School on Monday. 

The 40-year-old father of two invited the Nelson Street community to sit, relax and chat in the little park he would like to see become a permanent fixture. 

Liam Calvert is behind the initiative to build a 'community parklet' on Nelson Street

Liam Calvert is behind the initiative to build a 'community parklet' on Nelson Street - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Mr Calvert is a ‘parklet’ campaigner, a concept that has grown in popularity in recent years. 

It sees parking spaces given over to small gardens cared for by residents or the community.

He said: “We want to show that streets can have uses beyond cars, they can be a valuable communal space where people can socialise in comfort while also improving the look of the street. 

“We are asking Norfolk County Council to create a policy that would allow communities, families or individuals to apply for a permit equivalent to a parking space to be used for a parklet long term.” 

(L-R) Genevieve Cole-Godfrey, Bertie and Freddie Calvert- White enjoying the community parklet on Ne

(L-R) Genevieve Cole-Godfrey, Bertie and Freddie Calvert- White enjoying the community parklet on Nelson street - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

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Mr Calvert said the policy is already in place at a number of local authorities, including Hackney in London. 

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if every street had a spot like that for socialising and relaxing? 

“We want to show people what you can achieve outside their homes."

Asked why he had picked one of the hottest days Norfolk has experienced, Mr Calvert said: "If you want something to change the best time to do it is today.” 

Mr Calvert added nothing was bought especially for the pop-up parklet, with everything borrowed or repurposed. 

Neighbours welcomed the little garden that had popped up outside their house. 

Nelson Street parklet

The Nelson Street parklet - Credit: Liam Calvert

Martin McBride, 36, and his four-year-old son Cooper, said: “It's such a wonderfully sociable thing to do. It’s a really nice alternative to a parked car outside our house.” 

Parklets have risen in prominence in recent years, particularly during the pandemic when people without gardens sought the refuge of greenspaces.  

The concept was first used for a single day in San Fransico in 2005, they have now spread everywhere from London to Los Angeles. 

Parklets often have to be designed for quick and easy removal in the event of emergencies. 

Norfolk County Council was contacted for comment. 

How do parklets work? 

The London borough of Hackney has welcomed parklets as part of its commitment “to reducing the dominance of cars" in the area. 

All designs have to be submitted to the council and must go through a consultation stage like a planning application.  

The council only signs off on the scheme if it is sure the design is safe and there are no significant objections. 

The parklet keeper also needs to get insurance and is responsible for regular maintenance, upkeep and eventual removal. The size is limited to 5.5 meters – the equivalent of one parking space. 

Not every council is in favour of the scheme.

Warwickshire council removed a parklet from Kenilworth in April 2021, that had been created on top of a High Street parking space. 

In response, Adam Tranter, the man behind the garden, put a park with a bench on the back of a small van. Because it had a parking permit the parklet was “totally legit,” Mr Tranter told the BBC.