Pollards Hill Space & Public Realm

Location: Pollards Hill, Merton
Type: Community Space / Retrofit
Client: LB of Merton & GLA
Collaborators: Counterculture, Structure Workshop, Stockdale, Hunter Charlton,
Duration: 2021-
Status: Funding Development
Photographs: Agnese Sanvito, André Baumecker

Okra have recently completed a detailed feasibility study and business case for the transformation of a disused bus stop facilities building, located on a prominent high street site in Pollards Hill, into a new community space. Working closely with Merton Council and the GLA, Okra supported local people to develop ideas for its future uses, reported on local social needs and collaborated with potential future operators of the space.

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A large portion of community engagement was carried out during the pandemic and during  nationwide lockdowns. As such, a multifaceted engagement approach was key to ensure the views of the diverse community and local organisations were represented in future decision-making. Okra used creative engagement methodologies to foster collaboration and facilitate conversation, which in turn, provided added social value to the area. This included collaborating with local organisations to co-develop an audio tour to celebrate local community initiatives and the programming of an innovative, 3-week action testing phase, Pollards Pop-Up!

Pollards Pop-Up! delivered local social and economic value through free public activities and events, with workshops provided by local operators, such as cycle repair workshops, business pop ups, open air cinema, sports classes, health and employment advice and pop-up cafes. The act of self-building a temporary space at a visible site also encouraged hundreds of conversations with the community.

The research carried out led to the development of RIBA Stage 2+ designs, with the support of local stakeholders and backed by a robust business and governance plans led by close collaborator, Counterculture. The feasibility study has since secured funding for the project's delivery and has been recognised as an AJ Small Projects and Civic Trust finalist for its community-led approach, social value, design and innovative methodologies.

Local Collaborators include: Unique Talent CIC, Sherwood Park Hall CIC, Commonside Community Trust, Friends of Mitcham Park, AgeUK, Moat, Unique Talent, Hadley Road Community Allotments, Joan Henry, Giz Chu, Groundworks UK, Pollards Hill Baptist Church, NHS / East Merton Primary Care