The land adjacent to the Green Man Community Centre, Strawberry Vale was previously open land. At the time of the stock transfer the Tenant’s Association were concerned that the Peabody Trust would try to use some of the considerable open space on the estate for development. The Tenant’s Association was assured that this was not the case. The offer document states that the triangular piece of land can “only be used for the benefit of the residents of the estate and to further the Trust’s charitable objectives” (Fourth Schedule, Deed of Covenant by the Trust, section 14).
In December 2002, Peabody put forward proposals to build Shared Ownership flats on the land which was met with fierce opposition from the residents. These plans were dropped, and Colleen Etem on behalf of the Strawberry Vale Tenants and Residents Association in 2003 repeated the suggestion that the plot of land should be developed into a community garden – which would benefit the local residents and enhance the facilities of the centre.
The proposal was agreed by Peabody provided that the capital cost could be covered by external funds and/or funds already ear-marked for community regeneration in the estate. Work on plans to develop the site commenced. Initial investigations by Ground Engineering in 2004 revealed that there were two issues with the site; (a) Hydrology as a natural spring runs through the land – a french drain was installed to temporarily relieve the problem, and (b) some arsenic contamination – the report recommended further investigation which to date is still to be acted upon.
Peabody permitted Higgins to use the area as a contractors site during essential building works on the estate, but then failed to ensure that Higgins made good the land afterwards.
This was made worse when Vital Energi were permitted to use the land when emergency gas works needed to be carried out on the estate, and the site deteriorated even further. It has been left unmanaged for a number of years.
Groundwork were commissioned to work with various residents to draft plans for the site, the expected costs of the project doubled, and doubts were raised about tapping into the North Circular Compensation Fund. Which appears to have caused the project to stall.
In 2006 East Finchley Development Trust (now the East Finchley Community Trust) conducted a consultation with the residents, which established that 82% of local residents wanted to see the plot developed into a community garden
(2) Recent developments
In July 2010, the Green Man management Group employed a new Centre Manager Mark Healey to work with the committee to re-start the garden project and raise funds so that the land can be developed for the benefit of local residents.
Mark has gathered together and reviewed all the paperwork to do with the old garden project, put forward a proposal on how to move the project forward, which the management committee have agreed.
(3) Overview of new garden project
Mark has outlined a three prong approach.
(3a) Project work – the hard work that needs to be done, resolving the land issues including; (i) Hydrology, (ii) Arsenic contamination, iii) Management of the land and (iv) the governance of the project. Some of these issues need to be resolved by Peabody and may take some time.
Once these have been resolved, the project continues through five basic stages; (i) re-establishing good relationships between the project partners, (ii) Securing the plot, (iii) Simple landscaping, (iv) Planting, and then (v) Future development.
(3b) People activities – to develop the local communities involvement in the project, to nurture and develop people’s gardening skills and knowledge so that we have a team of people interested and ready to take over the management of the garden.
This started with a “community day” at the centre where residents were invited to come and see the plans and discuss the project. Layla Conway gave us some funding from the Peabody Activate Fund so we were able to provide some refreshments and have some plants and window boxes to giveaway.
From this initial meeting, proposals to set up a Strawberry Vale Gardening club were developed and the group began on Monday the 16th May 2011.
The Project needs to independently raise its own finance. So work needs to be done to identify potential funders and submit funding applications.
(4) Governing the Project
To govern the garden project, a new Garden Project Steering Group has been set up which will hopefully bring together all the key people who need to be involved to make the project happen.
The steering group as a whole will meet quarterly to look at how the three main areas of the project are coming along (a) the project work that needs to be done, (b) the people activities that are taking place and (c) fundraising.
There will be regular smaller meetings taking place in-between the quarterly meetings, as tasks are delegated and worked upon by different people.
(4a) Steering Committee
Details of the steering committee will be added here:
- Mark Healey (Centre Manager)
- Martin O’Donnell (Peabody)
- Janince Kerr (Chair of Green Man Community Group)
- Malcom Beech (Forget me not garden design)
- John Milligan (Muswell Hill Gardeners)
- Pat Dean (Green Man Management Group)
- Mary Dowling (Green Man Management Group)
- Sandra Dockerty (Strawberry Vale Gardening Club)
- Tom Landell-Mills
- Jessica Robinson (Peabody Neighbourhood Manager)
- Layla Conway (Peabody)
The first quarterly steering meeting took place on Tuesday 21st June at 3pm.
- Tuesday 20th September at 3pm
- Tuesday 13th December 3pm
- Tuesday TBC March 2012
- Tuesday TBC June 2012
- Tuesday TBC September 2012
In between the quarterly meetings, there will be the following working group meetings.
(i) Project Work Working Group
(ii) People Activities Working Group
(iii) Fundraising Working Group
(5) Project Work
(5a) Arsenic contamination
Peabody has a duty of care to ensure that there is no risk to the health and well-being of anyone using the land and are in the process of commissioning an investigation into the contamination that was previously identified on the site back in 2004.
We are aware that there is a natural source of water on the plot, which has caused flooding in the area. This was temporarily resolved by installing a french drain on the plot, however it appears that this measure was damaged whilst the contractors were on the site.
We have requested a copy of the plans for the french drain that was installed by Peabody so that we can look at what needs to be done to resolve the hydrology issue.
It has been suggested that we could incorporate a “marshy” area into the garden.
(5c) Management of the Land
There are three key partnerships involved in managing the land; Peabody, Greenleaf and local volunteers.
- Greenleaf need to have the plot added to their contract so that they can maintain the area along with their other landscape maintenance duties on the estate. Ideally they would manage the heavier tasks – mowing the grass, trimming bushes etc.
- Peabody need to patrol the plot as they do the rest of the estate so that it is regularly litter picked.
- Volunteers will be needed to maintain the garden throughout the year – planting, watering, weeding, general gardening and organising activities to involve others in the garden.
(5d) Security of the plot
The residents of Strawberry Vale have concerns about access to the site, and the Green Man Management Group have already decided that the community garden needs to be secure.
- Fencing – ideally metal railings tall enough to deter individuals from climbing over them. There is to be no gate at the rear of the gardens leading to the new residential complex at the back of the centre, so the gardens will not become a thoroughfare. The management group also want to be able to close the gardens in the evenings so that they are not accessible overnight.
- CCTV – the garden would need to be added to the existing system at the centre.
- Patrols – working in partnership with the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, Peabody and local residents to ensure that the area is regularly monitored to deter unwanted anti-social or unwanted activities taking place in the gardens.
(5e) Landscaping the plot
The plot needs to be landscaped so that the ground is leveled out and the debris that has accumulated over the years is removed.
(5f) Basic infrastructure
The existing plans lay out where the paths, steps and paved areas will be.
(5g) Initial planting
Once the landscaping has been completed, and the basic infrastructure has been put in place the gardening club will be able to start planting the flower and vegetable beds.
Plans for what will be planted will need to be consulted and agreed collectively by all parties, which the gardening club will lead on. Once we have identified what will be planted, hopefully the gardening group will have the opportunity to grow some of the plants from seed.
(5h) Future development
As funding for the project is expected to come in stages, the steering committee will need to prioritise the key stages of the development of the plot, which will process over a period of time.
Our initial aim is to create a safe and accessible garden that can then be developed further as funds permit.
(6) People Activities
As well as providing us with a new space to use, the garden project provides us with a new opportunity to engage with local people and involve them in the process of developing the site and managing it after the work has been completed.
(6a) Setting up a volunteer scheme for the centre
The are already a number of volunteers working at the centre in different roles; Green Man Management Group (GMMG), Credit Union, Age UK Barnet Luncheon club, Hope House groups, East Finchley Advice Service (EFAS), amongst others.
We have signed up to the Experts in Volunteering Charter which outlines ten areas of best practice that we will work towards. These include; (i) Equality and Diversity, (ii) Expenses, (iii) Induction, (iv) Organisational Involvement, (v) Personal Development, (vi) Recruitment Process, (vii) Resolving difficulties, (viii) Reward and Recognition, (ix) Safe Volunteering Environment and (x) Support.
Our aim is to encourage as many local residents as possible to volunteer and get involved in activities at the centre.
This will also enable us to tap into potential volunteer funding streams.
(6b) Setting up Strawberry Vale Gardening Club
The club started on the 16th May 2011, and has already attracted a few residents from the estate to be involved. Peabody Activate have provided us with some funding to get started.
The group meet at 5pm on Monday evenings at the Green Man and have already started work on a small growing plot on the land next to the centre.
We have a Community Gardener called Naomi from Spitalfields City Farm who joins us on a fortnightly basis, who is working with the group to expand our gardening knowledge and skills as well as getting on with some of the practical gardening that needs to be done.
If you would like to join the Gardening Club please contact Mark on 020 8815 0703 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(6c) Short-term growing projects
First of all we needed to gain access to the land and arranged for the Padlock on the gate to be changed. The Greenleaf were given the go-ahead to start clearing the land and cut back a lot of the vegetation.
We’ve drafted a basic plan for the Garden club to get started on, which is focussed on setting up our first growing patch along the railings that separate the two gardens. Meanwhile the key issues have been flagged up to Peabody.
The Garden Club have cleared a patch of the land, recycled a couple of bath tubs and brought some planting pots with the initial £150 fund provided by Peabody Activate. Various seeds have been planted which are already beginning to grow.
Wates kindly organised a community day to help us remove some of the debris from the land, fixing the paved area. They have also offered to install a new fence at the back of the garden, and provided us with some railway sleepers so we can build five raised beds.
Wates did a great job re-setting the paving area next the the centre.
And the plumbers kindly fitted an outdoor tap so that it is much easier for the gardening club to water it’s growing patch.
Wates came back and built the new fence along the back of the garden.
The next stage is for Peabody to follow-up on the soil testing, and to let us know what needs to be done to fix the hydrology of the site. We also need the plot to be included in the land management contract so that it is regularly maintain, and included in the caretakers areas.
Veronica Kirwan (Peabody) is due to get back to use on the 13th July regarding the issues that Peabody is dealing with.
The Steering Group held its first meeting on the 21st June at the Green Man, and will now meet quarterly (see above for more details).
The Strawberry Vale Gardening Group are working on developing a list of local gardening resources which will enable us to set up the Google Map.
Mark Healey has started to compile a list of potential funding opportunities, and is working on the initial applications (see below for more details).
We need to source a suitable shed for the Garden Project and are proposing that it goes in the lower garden as previously planned. Once we have this agreed by the Green Man Management Group Malcolm Beech has agreed to help us prepare the site where the shed will be placed.
Gloria, from the Strawberry Vale Gardening Group has been in contact with Barnet Council who have provided us with a Composting Bin. A composting site will be set up as planned at the office side of the centre. Naomi from Spitalfields City Farm has run a session on composting.
Once funding from Peabody Activate is available, the Strawberry Vale Gardening Club will purchase some hanging baskets/resources and run a session on hanging baskets. The completed baskets will be installed on the back of the building.
The Strawberry Vale Gardening Club have started the process of clearing the plot, working in strips from the back fence. Using wheel barrows, debris from the site will be moved to the front of the site and piled up ready for collection.
Malcolm has volunteered the services of his team, who will be able to come down and carry this out for us. He will provide copies of his insurance and risk assessments. Ideally this should be completed by the end of July.
We will need to hire a grabber to collect the debris and take it away.
Once the remainder of the debris has been removed from the site we need to hire a cultivator and cultivate the site. We will rotivate the weeds back into the plot, some of which will need to be removed by hand if they re-grow.
Once cultivated, we will then need to rake the plot to level it out. We can then look at seeding the area with grass, by mid-August.
By September we should be ready to mark out a basic boarder, 80cm in width around the natural boundary of the garden. Malcolm believes that we should be able to source some of our plants from Clockhouse nursery. If we use Mypex and Play Bark we can reduce the amount of regular weeding that will need to be done.
Peabody will need to arrange to build the five raised beds, three at the back of the plot and two near the front of the plot, using the sleepers provided by Wates.
Three of the raised beds at the back of the garden will be used for vegetable growing (which is essential if the centre and the gardening group want to apply for funds to develop the garden), the two raised beds at the front of the garden will be used for flowers so that they are the first thing that people see as they approach the centre.
We need to source suitable fencing for the front of the plot, ideally two gates – a large one for vehicles and a smaller one for people. If it is over 2 meters high we will need planning permission which can take 6-8 weeks.
We need to look at how we are going to extend our existing CCTV system to cover the garden.
(6d) Mapping out East Finchley gardening opportunities and resources
As well as developing residents skills and knowledge, we also want to explore what other gardening opportunities and resources are available in East Finchley. We have started to list what is available in the area and plot places of interest on our own gardening google map.
(6e) School Project/Work Experience
Sandra Dockerty has suggested that we could work with a local school to provide work experience opportunities, potentially starting in September.
(6f) Partnership with other organisations
It has also been suggested that we could work in partnership with other groups and organisations to provide accessible garden opportunities.
This is something that we will need to explore further.
For example the Larchers Community Trust is looking for a suitable space within Barnet to run some of it’s projects.
(7a) North Circular Compensation Fund
Money from this fund can only be accessed after consultation with the residents of the Strawberry Vale estate and can only be spent on community development projects that benefit the estate.
There are outstanding resident issues regarding this fund that we are in the process of addressing with Peabody. Once resolved the GMMG management group intend to carry out a consultation with residents on the estate, and propose that some of the money is allocated towards the garden project.
(7b) Estate Controlled Environmental Improvement Budget (ECEIB)
In 2004 we successful bid for £14,000 towards the costs of installing metal railings to secure the garden, however as the project did not go ahead as scheduled this money was lost and reallocated to other projects.
The budget for this year has already been allocated, so we will need to submit an application with the assistance of the estate manager next year.
(7c) One Housing Group
Previously offered the centre £75,000 however this was withdrawn when their planning application to develop the land behind the centre was rejected.
It was hoped that another offer would become available towards the end of the building project however this is not the case.
I have written to Alan Williams the Director of One Housing Group to see if he would be willing to make a gesture of goodwill – without success.
(7d) Funding Applications.
Mark is in the process of drafting a list of potential funders who may be able to provide us with funding. These include:
- Activate London
- Barnet’s Big Society Innovation Bank
- Big Lottery Fund – Awards for All
- Capitol Growth
- NatWest CommunityForce – unsucesful 2010/11.
- Team London