We had to deliver three large environmental improvements which had already been decided: The green screen, the wildflower areas and the children’s play equipment in the community garden. There were also a couple of other improvements that we identified through our initial mapping and consultation sessions with residents: Hulme Street and Letsby Avenue.
Although the site for this had been decided, we still had to find out what type of play equipment the residents and the children their children would like, with what components and made out of which type of materials.
We came across the issue of safety inspections – residents ideally wanted a small swing for toddlers, but the requisite safety inspections for the life of the equipment meant we could not consider it as an option.
There were also concerns about having a roof on the play piece; it would keep playing children dry and make a nice enclosed space, but nearby residents were worried that it would create a place that might attract noisy youths or drinkers. In the end, the play equipment was scaled down to accommodate smaller children, and we decided on a roof that could be removed. Hopefully the smaller size would mean that it was not feasible for anyone larger to fit inside so it would not attract trouble, and also if it did, we could in future remove the roof to prevent this.
Since the day it was installed and safety checked it has been extremely well used!
They [the children] are turning into quite a posse out there, getting to know each other better from different streets. It’s a good focal point and all that talk about which design has really paid off”
We asked residents what they would like to see making up the green screen. Unfortunately we identified early on that we could not afford acoustic barriers, so we had to rely on fencing or vegetation. The residents decided on a mix of evergreen and deciduous vegetation –
including trees, shrubs and climbing plants. As the residents did not want herbicides to be used, for maintenance groundcover plants were used to suppress weeds. Not using herbicides created an issue as the contractors were not happy with this, and would not give the work a guarantee. We discussed this with residents and Groundwork and came up with a solution, involving rotivating the area before planting, that meant that herbicides did not have to be used and that reduced any chances of weeds being a problem.
We consulted residents to find out where they would like the wildflower areas, and what type of wildflowers and landscape they wanted. Maintenance was an important implication so we
also needed to consult with the Grounds Maintenance department of City South, who maintain communal green spaces on the estate. We had to make sure that we were not making their job impossible, and to make sure that our wildflowers would not get accidentally
mown down! As with the Green Screen, the non-use of herbicides was a problem for our initial contractor. We decided instead to give this part of the physical works contract to Hulme Community Garden centre as it had extensive experience of working without chemicals.
Wildflower areas spend many months of the year not flowering, so some residents were worried that we would create areas that were scruffy for much of the year. In the end, we scaled back our main wildflower areas plan as we did not feel confident that we could get
enough of a consensus. This led to a small group of residents being unhappy that we had not made enough wildflower areas, so we provided funding and they created some smaller areas next to their blocks. As these patches were seen as much more resident-led they were accepted by the other local residents.
This is a street on the edge of the estate which seemed to only get used as commuter parking, and was described by residents as a no-man‟s land. There were a lot of people who wanted this to be made more of a part of the estate. As it was a public road, Manchester City
Council‟s Highways department would have the final say in what happened to it, so from the very start, we approached Highways, Planning and Ward-coordination staff from the council to let us know what they would and wouldn‟t allow. This was essential as it meant that any options that were presented to residents were feasible when it came to applying to make any changes.
It took a few months to whittle down all these options and to carry out all these processes whilst keeping people informed. It was important that we had a lot of evidence of consultation to persuade the council. The consultation was particularly helped by residents from Hulme Street carrying out a survey of everyone that lived on the street to find out what they wanted to see. After a final meeting with residents, City South Manchester and Highways, we received the green light to pedestrianise the street. There is now a group working with City South Manchester (who are funding the green space improvements on Hulme Street, along with the successful Community Spaces bid) and landscape architects to design the changes.