Simon Clarke MP joined Beyond Housing Chief Executive Rosemary Du Rose to view progress on an ambitious £210,000 community woodland project in Loftus.
The project, spearheaded by Beyond Housing and Loftus Town Council, is in the process of transforming a 4.6-acre disused allotment site into an accessible woodland park, which is due for completion in March next year. The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland was impressed by the progress on the woodland site, which has been partially completed by young people undertaking work experience placements with Groundwork NE & Cumbria as part of the government-funded Kickstart employment scheme.
The project is being part-funded by a grant of £124,100 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Green Recovery Challenge Fund, with the woodland project being one of just 68 schemes in the UK to be chosen as a beneficiary. Further match-funding investments of £20,000, £30,000 and £50,000 have also been pledged by Beyond Housing, Esh Construction and Groundwork NE & Cumbria, respectively.
Once complete, the community woodland will offer a schedule of family events and activities, as well as a home for volunteering opportunities and community groups. There’ll also be chance for schoolchildren to venture out of the classroom to learn outdoors, and accessibility for all with two-metre-wide paths to support those with prams or limited mobility. The project aims to create a new and vibrant habitat and enhance biodiversity, while tackling invasive species and creating pollination corridors. Veteran trees will be conserved, with more trees planted to ensure a lush woodland for years to come.
On his visit, Mr Clarke toured the site and congratulated everyone involved on creating a space of which the community could be proud. Rosemary Du Rose, chief executive at Beyond Housing, said: “We’d like to thank Mr Clarke for visiting our project and recognising the hard work our community connectors and partners have put in to make it an excellent facility for Loftus residents. The project has three primary aims; to ensure that it is accessible for everyone, that the habitat encourages wildlife and sustainability, and employment – creating opportunities for people in creating and maintaining this space.”
Clarke added: “This area’s really been transformed over the last six months and there’s more still to come. It was great to see the young people on the Kickstart scheme so inspired by what they’re engaged in, helping to put something back, learning new skills and getting new qualifications. It’s uplifting to see the results of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund in action partnered with fantastic local companies like Beyond Housing who have done such a great job of co-funding the work that’s been going on here. There’s a real sense of a project unfolding here, with government support but a very clear local input and direction, which is a model of what we want to see in communities up and down the country. It’s something that, if we can replicate it both locally and nationally, we’ll be doing really well.”
Other partners on the scheme have included Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Loftus Accord Walking Group and the Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation.
Image: Simon Clarke MP (5th left) pictured with (from left), Beyond Housing Community Connector Rachael Crooks, Groundwork Youth Worker Mike Dent, Beyond Housing CEO Rosemary Du Rose, Jamie Richardson and Jack Beaumont, courtesy Beyond Housing.