Residents and visitors to Kingston town centre are getting extra doses of greenery and seating thanks to a new initiative by authorities in the borough.

The new 'social spaces' that have appeared on Thames Street, Fife Road and outside the entrance to Kingston Station were installed thanks to a project by the business development organization Kingston First and Kingston Council (RBK).

Kingston First said they have been installed on a "temporary basis" so far (up to 18 months) to gauge the reaction of residents, and will take on feedback that is being encouraged ahead of potentially making the new features permanent.

The social spaces take the form of communal wooden seating, and planters hosting trees and wildflowers, while some carry plaques with extra information and even QR codes that can be scanned to learn more about the project.

A spokesperson for Kingston First described the development of the project:

"Local landscape architect and double RHS Gold Award winner Davies White Ltd were commissioned to develop detailed designs and project manage the installation of seating, greenery and reshaping of the spaces. The timber used is sustainable and when the project ends it will be used elsewhere in the borough. The plants and trees were specially chosen to encourage more biodiversity.

"Throughout the design process for Thames Street both organisations have engaged with accessibility groups and businesses about the proposals, taking on board any concerns and adapting the designs and plans accordingly."

While it remains to be seen precisely how popular the planters and social spaces will be, some have already expressed their fondness for the new additions on social media.

The scheme meanwhile involves the closure of part of Thames Street to enable it to become a pedestrian and cycle only zone, from 10am to 5pm every day.

Kirsten Henly, Chief Executive at Kingston First, said the new installations can help businesses recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic too:

"Creating a vibrant and welcoming town centre is very important to its success, and it’s a key part of our commitment to our businesses. Since COVID-19 there is a real appetite from visitors and local businesses for more green spaces in the town centre and this project is about meeting that need. The new seating and planting provides places for people to stop and relax in nature while supporting biodiversity in the town," she said.

Business and Leisure Portfolio Holder at RBK John Sweeney agreed, suggesting that the social spaces "create a more welcoming, social and accessible street environment. This enhances the town centre and leads to longer and more frequent visits that boost local businesses..."

Click here to have your say on the social spaces.