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Environment, places and spaces

Ideas, activities and projects from Big Local areas

March 2014

Many Big Local areas from across the country, both rural and urban have identified their local environment, places and spaces as a priority. People have highlighted that the word ‘environment’ has different meanings. We use it to talk about green spaces like parks, allotments, walking and cycling trails and forests, as well as built places like high streets, playgrounds, buildings and roads. All of these are a part of our environment and contribute to how we experience an area and how a place makes us feel.

Debbie Ladds, chief executive

No Walls Gardens, community interest company in Northfleet North

No Walls Gardens is a community interest company in the Northfleet North Big Local area. No Walls Gardens works on community gardening projects with volunteers of all ages – who include ex-offenders, people with disabilities, long-term unemployed and recovering addicts. Through their six week courses people learn gardening and landscaping skills.

With a Big Local Star People award, No Walls Gardens was founded by Peter Scollard and is closely involved with Big Local. With his business partner, Gary May, they have established a social enterprise which is making a real difference for the residents of the area, and share their experiences by speaking at Big Local events around the country. No Walls Gardens is supported by the Eden Project and they have also received funding from a variety of sources including the European Social Fund, Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All, Gravesham Borough Council and Kent County Council.

No Walls Gardens is not just about horticulture. Peter and Gary have a holistic approach to gardening and society, and believe that encouraging people to take pride in their environment and pride in themselves can bring about a real and lasting change. Their projects engage with the local community, and encourage creativity, shared responsibility and self-reliance. They help people away from worklessness, reoffending or relapsing and offer valuable life and work skills; to encourage people to be a part of something bigger and to make Northfleet North a nicer place to live.

Read more on their website

Getting people involved in improving Conniburrow Big Local

Through Big Local conversations, residents in Conniburrow have voiced their concerns about how their estate looks. So Conniburrow Big Local have been busy trying to find solutions to make improvements. At the end of last year they planted spring bulbs across the estate. The planting wasn’t obvious to residents at the time but now their guerrilla gardening is coming up in the spring bloom!

Conniburrow Big Local works closely with the schools in the area. In the February half-term they ran a bird and bee house making craft club for children and these have now been put out around the estate. Now the weather is warming up they are working with the schools to arrange a litter pick after school project. As part of this they are running a litter and dog poo poster competition for the students. Children are being are encouraged to take these posters home and put them in their windows where people can see them. Milton Keynes Dons football club will reward one winner from each school with tickets to one of their games.

Looking forward, Conniburrow Big Local are planning three events for the summer. They are hoping to enter their estate in the annual competition Milton Keynes in Bloom (as part of the Thames and Chilterns region of the RHS Britain in Bloom competition). The competition is run to encourage people to participate in managing the environment. They also plan to run a garden competition locally for residents and organise a nature walk to get people out to the woods and ponds nearby.

Making Fratton an attractive place and making the best use of green space

In Fratton Big Local, people have highlighted their local environment as being a priority. There are large empty spaces and closed shops. Residents feel it could look more attractive and there is a sense of a lack of pride in the area. So last year Fratton Big Local started working with Southsea Greenhouse on some flowerbeds outside Hale Court; retirement and sheltered housing managed by the council. These beds were piles of earth that nobody had touched for years. Southsea Greenhouse and Fratton Big Local worked with volunteers from the wider area, as well as residents from Hale Court. Together they planted in the flowerbeds and people in the area were really pleased with the change. 

Father Bob White, chair of the Big Local partnership said that it gave people a glimpse of what they could do for other parts of the area. The flowerbeds outside Hale Court are still being cared for and Fratton Big Local has set up a task group to work on possible long term plans for the area’s large open spaces. These include the recreation ground and the church grounds. Their challenge is to get people using the spaces while respecting the primary use of the spaces. 

Fratton Big Local have key areas that they are allocating resources to in their Big Local plan and these include making Fratton an attractive place, and enhancing and making the best use of green space available.

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