Tereyna Freeman with Dennis Oliver (Family Housing gardener)
Wednesday, ?24 September 2014
An area of Sutton Coldfield that was once a magnet for anti-social behaviour has been given a new lease of life, thanks to the efforts of local residents and their housing provider.
Family Housing Association secured a £2,000 grant from Birmingham City Council’s community chest fund to bring disused land in Welshman’s Hill into bloom by cultivating 11 allotment-style ‘grow plots’.
The land, which had formerly been a site for anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, has been divided into plots and offered to local residents who do not have an outdoor space at home. They can use the area as a place to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Having acquired the site in 2011, Family was approached by residents living in Welshman’s Hill about the idea of transforming the land into an allotment-style space for the community to enjoy. .Family consulted with all local residents about the proposal and received a positive response.
All of the proposed plots were quickly snapped up by local residents – with those living in the flats with no gardens getting priority.
Tony Barnett, a Family resident who came up with the idea, said: “We saw a lot of potential in the empty land and contacted Family to discuss our idea of turning it into an allotment-style space for people living in the area, especially those with no garden of their own.
“The grow plots have created a great sense of community. I go down most evenings to water the vegetables and we always share the excess crops with friends and neighbours. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and look forward to watching the plots blossom.”
To mark the completion of the grow-plots, Family hosted a community event on Tuesday (22 July). More than 20 local residents attended the celebration, as well as staff from WM Housing Group, of which Family is a member, and Cllr Rob Pocock, who had supported the project. They were served with drinks, cakes and pastries while they toured the plots to see the budding work of green-fingered residents.
Claire Hardwick, Head of Customer and Community Involvement at WM Housing, said: “Local residents, Tony Barnett and Jason Freeman, approached us back in 2012 to ask if the vacant area could be used by the community as ‘grow spaces’. We agreed, and through Birmingham City Council’s funding and the great work of Family’s Estates Services Team, we were able to work with them to turn their vision into a reality.
“It’s great to be able to support such a positive resident-led initiative and it was important to celebrate their success. The grow site is a real asset for local residents to use and enjoy. We know that spending time outside and enjoying green spaces has a really positive impact on health and wellbeing and we’re keen to support and encourage that.”
Cllr Rob Pocock was on hand to officially open the site. He said: “This is an excellent community-led initiative, and a real tribute to what can be achieved through the teamwork of determined residents and a social provider like Family Housing. They listened to the needs of their customers and gave practical support. “The grow sites will help residents get fit and healthy, meet other people in their area and help with their food bills too. It’s a real win for all, and a well justified source of pride for the local community.
“Our local Council Ward Committee gave a financial contribution but more funding was needed last minute to secure a planning application. I was very pleased to support 50-50 funding for this.”
The 11 grow plots have been allocated to residents free-of-charge for a provisional two year period. Family are working with the residents to establish a resident-led Management Committee to oversee the running of the grow-sites.