Hello and welcome to my August blog. This month I’d like to talk to you about our Environment Work – an area we’re incredibly passionate about here, and have big ambitions for.

Flying the Green Flag

I’m happy to open with the fantastic news that our Barlow Hall Green Space has won the Green Flag Award for a third year running! The Green Flag recognises some of the very best green spaces in the world. To win, a space has to be maintained to the highest possible environmental standards, as well as provide a safe, welcoming environment for local people and wildlife. Southway is the only housing association in the North, and second in the whole of the UK, to achieve this.

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I’m really proud of this achievement and of our Environment team for getting us there. Here are a few of the ways this green space has benefitted – and benefitted from – the local community recently.

Earlier this year, the Environment team cultivated a long-grass area and wildflower bed to try to encourage more of our wonderful Manchester bees to the space. By the time the Green Flag Award was raised on the site in August, it was great to see the wildflower bed and long grass area buzzing with life from not just bees, but grasshoppers and crickets too.

Community engagement has made a big impact on the development of this Green Space, and we’ve been so pleased to see people from across the community getting involved. In spring, pupils from St Ambrose School led an educational shelter-building activity on the heritage garden area, and children from Barlow Hall School took part in a mini beast hunt in the wildlife area. The involvement of these schools has helped not only to improve the area, but also to instil in the children a sense of ownership of the space, and pride in how they have contributed to helping their local environment. If you work with children, and are interested in finding out more about our Environment programme, get in touch; we are always happy to explore new partnerships.

The space has been put to excellent use by the Mottram Avenue Community Vegetable Planters (MACVP) who’ve grown vegetables and herbs year round – including rocket salad, rainbow chard, spinach and sage - all of which have been harvested and enjoyed by members and local people. MACVP meet at the green space every month, and if you are interested in growing yourself, they always welcome new members to get involved and share the produce.
Now that the Green Flag has been raised, we’re turning our attention to how we can increase the Barlow Hall Green Space’s presence in the community, in addition to its place in our Environment Strategy.

Plans are already underway for a second statue to accompany Willy the Station Master (pictured) in the heritage garden. This new statue will be of a female passenger, who we expect to be completed before the year is over. Again we’re inviting local schools to come down, contribute their own artworks, and celebrate; I’m looking forward to finding out what name the children will decide on for the garden’s new addition!

Zero Carbon Manchester – can we get there?

The Barlow Hall Green Space has an important place in the development of our new Zero Carbon Strategy. This strategy follows Southway’s signing of the Commitment to Act, in which we agree to play an active role in making Manchester a sustainable city. The Commitment aims to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 13% each year, with the goal of becoming a zero carbon city by 2038. This has always been a personal passion of mine, and I would encourage everyone to read more about this Commitment, and about how you can play a part in it alongside Southway.

Our own Zero Carbon Strategy will be presented to our Board in September, and leading up to this we will be focusing on how we can use the Barlow Hall Green Space as a benchmark for our other green areas, to help us make our commitment a reality.

If you have any ideas on how we can get closer to making Manchester carbon zero, I want to know them! Please send me your comments and feedback by writing to me below, or through our social media pages.

You can also share your ideas with us at our annual Fun & Feedback event, which will take place on Saturday 31st August. Everyone is welcome to come along to comment on our services and performance, find out more about what we offer, and simply enjoy a day of fun activities.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions and hope to see you at Fun & Feedback Day.

Karen

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