In 2015 Chelmsford City Council applied to be part of our Design in the Public Sector accelerator programme to help them explore solutions to the issue of parking at schools in the local areas.
As every school, nearby resident and parent is well aware, the problem of parking around schools, and the safety issues that arise from it, is an ongoing and contentious issue. There are no easy solutions and it is a national as well as a local problem, with the police and local authorities often being drawn in to resolve disputes. With more than 500 schools in Essex, a growing population and little evidence of a reduced reliance on cars, the issues of school parking is a problem that is only likely to get bigger.
To make the issue in this region even more complicated, the pressure and needs from one area differ to the next. It is clear that any sustainable solution needs to take a localised approach and address the individual needs of each of the particular neighbourhoods.
Under increasing pressure to address and solve the issue once and for all, Chelmsford City Council joined the Design in the Public Sector programme to start a problem-solving project in partnership with local schools, teachers, residents and others in order to focus efforts and create a solution.
This project attempts to draw together... Essex Police, the councils and schools as well as local groups in order to develop a more cohesive strategy.
What we did
The Design in the Public Sector programme took Chelmsford City Council through five workshops over a 90-day period to help them understand and reframe the challenge. This process helped them develop a model for understanding the impact of their work and how to develop and test the best ideas before launch.
No cohesive or collaborative drive for resolution existed within Chelmsford, or in the wider county of Essex, before this point. Instead, the approach was somewhat piecemeal, being tackled from varying angles by numerous different groups. Consequently, this project attempts to draw together a wider set of stakeholders, including Essex Police, the councils and schools as well as local groups in order to develop a more cohesive strategy that recognises specific local differences. The intention is to make the whole process inclusive and engage those actually affected to develop tailor-made solutions.
It will improve safety and traffic problems at peak times of the day... and also increase community cohesion and mean reduced car journeys to school.Rona Tanfield, Chelmsford City Council
The programme has helped Chelmsford City Council develop a set of considered solutions that improve the overall traffic position around schools. A design agency will co-create an overall brand identity which allows the council to easily communicate what the plan is to schools, and also a set of communications materials which the school can use to implement and communicate the plan to parents and local residents.
As Rona Tanfield, Parking and Highway Liaison Manager at Chelmsford City Council, told us "We believe that this project will have a really positive impact on the communities’ attitudes and behaviours towards school parking. Firstly, it will improve safety and traffic problems at peak times of the day, which is a huge issue. But it will also increase community cohesion and mean reduced car journeys to school, meaning parents will choose healthier journeys to school. We’re excited to get started.”
Students at the relevant schools will be closely involved in the process which will add to their understanding of a design project and the processes and disciplines involved in arriving at practical and viable solutions.
A design agency will co-create an overall brand identity which allows the council to easily communicate what the plan is to schools, parents and local residents.
How success will be measured
The success of the schemes will be measured through pre and post research to ascertain how the remedies have worked. Tangible improvements to parking bottlenecks will also be identified.
A number of different authorities will liaise with schools, but bringing in this initiative will provide a central point of contact that is then able to easily connect schools to support networks, reducing the time and correspondence currently undertaken.
Where to now
Chelmsford City Council has now engaged its first school, with which it will run a trial. Once reviewed, it will then target other schools where the parking issues are acute. The council is liaising with some local design companies, and stakeholders remain on board and are eager to start taking on the next stages on the project.
Following a presentation on the initiative to the South Essex Parking Partnership Joint Committee, the members agreed to fund the full-scale implementation of the pilot project. Partners by Design was commissioned by the project team to work with the Chelmsford City Council communications team and the stakeholder group on the School Parking Initiative.
The first phase of the project aimed at creating an overall brand identity for the initiative. After several design briefs and reworks, the stakeholder group agreed on a cartoon-like robot character called ‘3PR’ (the three parking rules), representing the aim of the School Parking Initiative and appealing to the primary school sector age group (a different approach than will be required for secondary schools).
The team validated the branding by sharing the design...the new character has been very well received and the children were very positive and excited about the whole concept.
The team validated the branding by sharing the design with all stakeholders, partner authorities and, importantly, with the children of the pilot school. The new character has been very well received and the children were very positive and excited about the whole concept.
Working with the school, stakeholders and the pupil’s, several ideas have been developed including; rewarding good parking behaviour with ‘team points’, collecting badges and an annual cup in recognition of good parking practice and alternative means of travelling to school. The pilot school is also keen for pupils to monitor the parking, and Chelmsford will be providing them with hi-vis vests and baseball caps bearing the 3PR branding.
The design team is also working on an interactive website, to be used as a central information hub, with which all schools and pupils can engage. The hub will provide the necessary information and tools for any school to launch their own parking initiative, as well as provide an area to share successes and new initiatives as they develop. The council is currently supporting a roll-out programme to start prototyping the ideas.