The Community Wardens at the Guild of Students have led the early stages of developing a brand new green space in Selly Oak - the area immediately surrounding the University where many students live. This has involved reclaiming an abandoned and disused site and preparing it for future development.
The lack of green space in Selly Oak is a primary concern among students. The housing stock in the area is predominantly late Victorian terraced houses and many of the back gardens have been developed on to expand properties in order to create more bedrooms, meaning that many houses lack front and rear gardens. Additionally there are few trees on these roads in comparison to surrounding areas like Edgbaston and Selly Park which are tree preservation areas.
The hope of this project was to develop a brand new green space such as a community garden/pocket park that students and the wider local community can enjoy. This includes a lawn that could be used for studying in summer months, picnic benches, fresh fruit, vegetable and herb patches etc.
Stages and process of development
1) November 2018 – The Community Wardens were approached by a local resident dismayed by the state of a site on Arley Road. The site was overgrown and regularly used as a dumping ground for domestic waste but also commercial waste. It was blighted by trash (e.g. beer bottles from nights out) and long grass.
2) December 2018 – We approached the Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers (BUCV) society to get support and ideas. An initial ground survey was completed with members of the society.
2) December 2018 – We approached Parks Department, Birmingham City Council to determine the site owner – They indicated it was under the Highways Department and had no maintenance orders on the site, i.e. no work was planned to restore the site.
3) December 2018 – Contacted Highways Department, Birmingham City Council to request permission to develop the site, but no response received.
4) January 2019 – Contacted by local Councillor who believed the site was jointly owned by local landlords on the adjacent properties, and not Council property. They offered full support to restore and develop the site.
5) January 2019 – Contacted Estates Department, University of Birmingham, to develop links. They offered to lend equipment like lawnmowers to develop the site.
6) February 2019 – Met with BUCV to develop an initial sketch of the site with plans of how to develop it in the future.
7) February 2019 – Bought some new equipment needed to develop the site, e.g. sheers.
8) February 2019 – An initial event was arranged for early February 2019 to work on the site. 23 volunteers came together to clear the site of debris. This included removing 48 bags of waste from the site, removing large bulky waste such as street signs, a gas cannister and timber dumped there, and cutting back overgrowth to ground level.
Now that the initial clearance of the site has been completed we intend to continue developing the site.
1) A volunteer is completing a professional concept art sketch of what we hope the site will become.
2) We will conduct a public consultation of students and permanent residents living on the road in order to gage their views over the plan and to adjust accordingly in order to ensure the site is in the interests of the local community.
3) We will organise future events with volunteers to begin planting new plants e.g. fruit trees on the site and develop it ongoing ready to be enjoyed by all.