Norwich dad turns car parking space outside city school into play place for children

Liam Calvert took over a small section of the road outside Nelson Infant School on Monday.
The community parklet outside Nelson Road school Credit: Liam Calvert

When you think of a park Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York might spring to mind - not a small parking space.

But one man has put the park in parking space by transforming a spot outside a school into a small green haven.

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 in Norwich.

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.

The car park Park in Norwich Credit: Liam Calvert

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."

A parklet in Hackney. Credit: ITV News

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?" he said.

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

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

Martin McBride: "It's such a wonderfully sociable thing to do" 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 green spaces.

The concept was first used for a single day in San Francisco in 2005, and they have now spread everywhere from London to Los Angeles and even Stockport in Greater Manchester.

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

Pocket guide to parklets

What is a Parklet?

A parklet is a way of reclaiming the streets - by giving parking spaces over to small gardens which can be looked after by the community.

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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.

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Is everyone in favour?

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," he said

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