During the pandemic, we saw a number of changes implemented to Sheffield’s traffic infrastructure, whether it was for social distancing or trialling cycling lanes. One of them saw Ball Street Bridge in Kelham Island close to traffic. unLTD’s Matt Holmes spoke to Matt Bowker from CODA about the potential of this site.

On a crisp morning following the Platinum Jubilee weekend, I met Matt Bowker, managing director of CODA Studios, walking towards unLTD’s Kelham Island office from his own just down the road. Walking up Green Lane we discussed the ever-changing face of the area, with multiple schemes currently underway in the once-named ‘coolest neighbourhood’ in the UK.

However, the redevelopment of Kelham Island isn’t what I went to speak to Matt about. Connecting Kelham Island to the Neepsend area is the beautiful Ball Street Bridge, recently pedestrianised by way of a few plastic planters blocking access by vehicles, and more recently some flower beds and benches popping up across the bridge. But what if we made the solution more permanent? What would that look like? That is exactly what Matt is hoping for, so I asked him where the idea for a permanent park on the bridge came from:

“The bridge has been closed to traffic and as a result, has become a much more pleasant environment for people to spend time in, enjoying the river and the natural environment. Kelham Island and Neepsend have very little green space for residents. Both districts effectively turn their back on the river across most of its length which is a pity considering what a fantastic natural asset it is.

“A park on the bridge can provide some of the green and break-out space that is missing in the neighbourhoods and provides immediate access to the river. A project like this, and hopefully others like it, will enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of current and future residents, and help attract more families to live in the area.”

Ultimately, it comes down to the local authority to get schemes like this off the ground. Matt told me how Sheffield City Council already understand the benefits of schemes such as this. All you have to do is look at the impressive Grey to Green scheme seen elsewhere in the city centre.

Part of the Council’s strategic vision for the city centre is to repopulate it through distinctive neighbourhoods.

To help deliver the vision, Matt said: “Kelham Island has had a lot of success, but we believe interventions are required that the market and private sector can’t deliver on its own. The park bridge and other similar projects across Kelham and Neepsend will make these neighbourhoods more liveable.

“Kelham Island doesn’t need creating, it already exists and has become a popular place to live in the inner city. Let’s make it even better!”