Tower block tenants in Salford are celebrating the completion of their own community garden.

Jun 13, 2013

Blackfriars gardenBlackfriars garden 2Blackfriars garden 3Blackfriars garden 4blackfriars garden 5blackfriars garden 6Two years ago, Vertical Villages Tenants and Residents Association, which represents the interests and needs of the local community living in the tower blocks in the Blackfriars and Greengate area of Salford, successfully applied to their landlord Salix Homes for a grant to develop the gardens around Black and White Friar Courts.

However, they had to postpone the work when Emanuel Whittaker started working on the internal and external renovation of the Black Friar high rise block as part of a multi-million pound home improvement programme by Salix Homes.

“We always intended to continue the garden project after Emanuel Whittaker had finished,” said Chair Paul Brodie. “The tower block has been re-clad and inside we all have lovely modernised new homes and so the gardens are just the final piece of the make-over jigsaw. After working with us for so long, Emanuel Whittaker wanted to do something to say farewell and we are delighted they decided to play such a major part in the project.”

Emanuel Whittaker lead resident liaison officer Adam Berry decided to organise a ‘garden army’ to tackle the work over a few days and complete the garden and planting once and for all.

“We have been working with residents here for over a year and have made some great friends,” said Adam. “As our way of saying thank you for putting up with us we were determined to leave the area looking as good as it can be.”

Emanuel Whittaker led the recruitment campaign by providing trade volunteers such as bricklayers and joiners to lend their muscle and expertise to the work. They also provided some of the necessary supplies such as soil and compost while other contractors such as JWD, Absolute Electrical, Riverstone, Foggs Floors and Liquid Roofing were also able to give their support with additional funding.

Several Salix Homes’ staff also went along to lend a hand. Joe Willis, chief executive at Salix Homes, said: “We were thrilled to be part of the ‘garden army’ to transform this space into a community garden. Safe and attractive communal spaces are really important to build and strengthen communities, so we are delighted our tenants now have this outdoor communal area to use and enjoy.

“The completion of the garden is the final piece in the jigsaw to the major improvement works that have been taking place at Black Friar Court as part of our Decent Homes programme. Not only have our tenants now got modern, energy efficient and comfortable homes fit for 21st century living, but, thanks to the energy and commitment of local residents and Emanuel Whittaker they’ve also got this wonderful outdoor area, which I’m sure will be very well-used.”

Around a dozen residents from the tower blocks were happy to come out in the sunshine and lend a hand and the garden army started by clearing up debris litter pick before jet washing communal areas. An area of decking has been built and the ramp to the existing shed has been made more wheelchair friendly. There has also been masses of re-planting while new walls and fencing have been erected and painted.

Site Manager John Woolley who project managed the supplies, funding and personnel and organised the event, said: “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. There was a lot of work to be done but between us all we have done it! The transformation is complete.”

One of the original aims of the garden project was to work closely with the Biospheric Foundation, a Salford based community interest company that wants to encourage local communities to grow their own food and plants in a sustainable way and Paul Brodie explains how the garden is not just about making the area look nice.

“We are planting edible plants and doing as much work as we can to ensure that local residents can actually eat what we grow,” he said.

“We owe a great deal to the hard work and determination of Emanuel Whittaker’s site manager John Woolley and Adam Berry who have helped us complete a project that could have taken months to finish.

“We intend to have a formal garden launch party later in the summer once the flowers and plants have become more established and we hope that this area becomes a well-used communal space where residents young and old can work and recreate together to build a stronger community.”


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