Bevin Court’s TRA is formed

We had a well attended meeting at Margery Street Community Hall on Wednesday, 24 June, 2015.  Twenty-three Bevin Court Council tenants, private tenants and leaseholders came together to elect  officers & committee members for the TRA.  The meeting was hosted by Val Barnes, the Islington Council Community Support & Development Officer for the Old Street Area Housing Office.

The following officers were elected to the Bevin Court Tenants’ & Residents’ Association on 24 June 2015

Chair – Julia Barclay
Vice Chair – Tom Cordell
Secretary – Justin Oh
Treasurer – Sally Grey

Committee Members
Aynom Fesum
David Hickling
John Moyle
Mick Page
Sue Petts

Contact us at BevinCourtTRA@gmail.com

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Bevin Court Greenspace Consultation

The initial scheme for replanting the grounds at Bevin Court was developed by Islington Council Landscape Architect, Marc Linton CMLI (Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute).  Members of the Bevin Community Gardens group liaised extensively with both Marc and with Trees for Cities, a charity that was drafted into the project to help both fundraise for the project and also to help deliver it.

Residents of Bevin Court & Holford House were consulted via a poster & leafleting campaign outlining the proposals.  Trees for Cities also engaged in a door-knocking consultation with residents during November 2010 in which residents were shown the detailed plans and asked for feedback.

The scheme was broken down into 6 areas:
Area 1 – two areas of hedgerow in front of Bevin Court
Area 2 – Main entrance in front of Bevin Court
Area 3 – Woodland around the ramp entrance at Bevin Court and in the small circle viewed from the lobby
Area 4 – Renovation of existing shrub bed along the South (maisonette) wing
Area 5 – Rear of Bevin Court in front of Flats 9-13 and in the fenced area underneath the East Wing
Area 6 – Holford House grounds

 

The results of the consultation were overwhelmingly positive with

  • 100% of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 1,
  • 92% of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 2,
  • 100% in support of the proposals for Area 3,
  • 96 % of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 5.

Areas 4 & 6 were not specifically polled as they were renovations of existing areas.  Instead, residents opinions were asked what sort of plants they would like to be included in the new planting.

There was unanimous support for the inclusion of a hedgerow around the front areas of the estate.  Many residents consulted were unhappy with the level of dog mess in the front of the estate and around the estate in general, with many residents commenting that the offenders were from outside the estate.   Some residents were also concerned with children playing football on the lawns at the front of the estate and wanted to encourage them to use Holford Gardens at the rear of the estate instead.

Several residents were also keen to see birds encouraged on the estate.  There was strong support for the introduction of a greater variety for types and sizes of plants around the state, with several comments along the lines of “Enough trees!  Can we get some colourful plants & flowers, please?”

A few residents were concerned that additional planting at the rear, ramp entrance of the estate (Areas 3 &4) could contribute to existing anti-social behaviour in the area.  In response to these concerns, Islington Council installed a new, higher fence around the woodland area (Area 3) and renewed the lighting along the path by the maisonette wing.   Islington Council continues to monitor this area in cooperation with Bevin Community Gardens and the Bevin Court Tenants’ & Residents’ Association.

Finally, more than a few residents were worried about squirrels ruining the planting.  That’s one we are still working on!

Islington Council’s Vision for Greenspace on Housing Estates

Islington Greenspace adaptation measures

Introduction
Housing estates in Islington pose a huge opportunity to tackle climate change whilst also improving the quality of our residents’ lives. This can be achieved by changing the way the open spaces are managed and increasing access to and contact with the nature which is on residents’ doorsteps. This bid would enable the council to provide open spaces that deliver similar benefits to that of a quality green space such as those in our public realm.

There are two broad areas that can be looked at for improvement, and can be defined as existing open space and new spaces.

Existing open space
The measures proposed will adapt the open spaces and also improve the quality of existing open space for both residents and wildlife. There are a number of small scale projects that can be taken forward to help us meet the targets set out in the Boroughs biodiversity action plan, Homes for Islington’s Sustainability Strategy and meet the needs of local residents:

Developing wildflower meadows on existing lawn areas
By creating wildflower meadows, it is possible to create an area that will be attractive to both people and wildlife and that will be more resistant to climate change. This is achieved by improving the visual aesthetics of a space and making better use of under utilized areas, they can save money from estate contract works as they cost less to maintain. Relaxing the mowing regime of designated areas on estates will also have biodiversity benefits by creating long grass meadow areas.

Planting of trees for shading
With global temperatures set to rise as an effect of climate change, urban areas such as Islington will be worse affected. Shade will become increasingly important in rising temperatures to help us adapt and minimize the health problems associated with a warmer climate. Trees will play a crucial role in this and they will also help mitigate against rising carbon emissions. Providing increased levels of shading will increase opportunities for residents to continue to use this outdoor space during the warmest parts of the year. The provision of more trees on estate grounds will also provide invaluable habitats and food sources for birds. The planting of trees can also contribute to a community’s sense of place and will be considered for all improvement schemes.

Shrub and tree planting for wildlife
The landscaping of estates can be multi-functional in terms that it provides screening and noise insulation, in addition to ecological and aesthetic considerations. The planting of bluebells, ramsons and snowdrops can be added to the under-storey of deciduous species, providing attractive colours for residents and acting as a good food source to invertebrates. Planting of hedges is important as these provide natural nest sites for birds and green corridors for mammals such as hedgehogs to move about more easily.

Installation of artificial nesting sites, feeding stations and other ecological features
The provision of nest boxes both within estate grounds and on buildings can contribute to the engagement of the local community in the form of community workshops, providing a sense of ownership and raised awareness as well as contact with the natural world. The boxes will provide significant biodiversity enhancements. Feeding stations provide invaluable supplementary food source particularly where berry producing shrubs are scarce. Feeders can be designed to be squirrel proof and can be adopted by residents who can refill them without the encouragement of squirrels and pigeons.

New Spaces
There are a number of estates that have limited existing open spaces, but have the potential to create new or extend existing open spaces. There are a number ways that this can be done to contribute to strategies for adapting to climate change, improve the quality of residents lives, and benefit biodiversity.

Creation of new landscaped areas
The amount of tarmac surfaces can be reduced by creating new landscaped areas. These new areas will help reduce the urban heat island effect and will contribute to achieving greater sustainable urban drainage. For example by using permeable paving water is allowed to enter natural porous zones in the ground; this also assists in filtering out of pollutants.

Allotment spaces
There is huge potential to utilise all areas on estates, from transforming concrete areas, disused planters and raised beds into allotment spaces for residents. By providing allotment spaces we will be providing residents an opportunity to produce there own food and empower them to take over management of certain areas of an estate, which in turn will lead to greater community cohesion. Allotment and wildflower spaces will contribute to enhancing biodiversity on estates as well as towards developing sustainable communities.

Greening of existing structures
In areas where it is difficult to implement schemes that require more space, green walls can be created using climbing plants. Vertical concrete areas can be transformed into attractive spaces that improve aesthetics for residents and provide habitat for bird and invertebrate species. These green walls can also provide benefits in the way of discouraging anti-social behaviour such as graffiti and providing security, which is particularly true if thorny climber species are used. Another way to enhance biodiversity is to incorporate green roofs on to new structures or retrofit to existing ones. Green roofs have benefits that are threefold which includes providing habitat for various invertebrates, reducing surface runoff and heat island effect helping mitigate against climate change, and finally improve the quality of residents life’s by creating visually stimulating spaces that had previously been grey and barren.

All of the above projects both on existing open space and new spaces will provide opportunities for residents to become more involved in the care of their estates and strengthen community cohesion, they also provide opportunities to empower residents, through gaining new skills.

History of Bevin Community Gardens

Bevin Community Gardens was formed in 2009 by a group of residents from Bevin Court. The group’s aim was to improve the physical environment at Bevin Court and enhance the welfare of its residents through food growing, horticulture and sustainable development.

Beginning in 2010, we developed an organic food growing space in an area of dis-used ground at the rear of the estate.

In 2010-11, we worked in conjunction with Islington Council GreenSpace team and a charity, Trees for Cities,  to re-design and re-plant the grounds around Bevin Court in accordance with   Islington Council’s Vision for Greenspace on Housing Estates.

Since 2010, we  have planted over 45,000 bulbs, trees and plants. We have created:

  • two large wildlife meadows,
  • three large hedgerows
  • five new herbaceous borders across the estate,
  • two tree pits,
  • new wildlife habitats and
  • installed bat & bird boxes as well as bird feeders & baths.

Children from local primary schools, volunteers and residents have participated at our community planting days.

We have received financial support and assistance from Edible Islington, Islington Council, The Cripplegate Foundation, Capital Growth, Homes for Islington, Islington Greenspace, The Rotary Club, The Peel Centre, Apollo Property Service and Trees for Cities.

 

Utopia London

Bevin Court resident, Tom Cordell, has a passion for London’s architecture. In 2012 he directed Utopia London, a feature length documentary that explores London’s recent architectural history.

The film observes the method and practise of the Modernist architects who rebuilt London after World War Two. It shows how they revolutionised life in the city in the wake of destruction from war and the poor living conditions inherited from the Industrial Revolution.

Watch this section of Utopia London and learn even more out about brilliant Bevin Court.

You can find out more about the film and when screenings of the movie will be taking place by visiting www.utopialondon.com

Ernest Bevin

The namesake of Bevin Court was a 20th century political giant. Many books have been written on him but we wanted to find out why Bevin is so important to people today.  So we visited Unite, the Union, with our film making team to interview Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff to Unite. Bevin was one of the founding members of this Union so we knew they’d be able to help. Andrew did such a great job contextualising Ernie that we asked him if he’d write a small blog for our website. So here it is:

Andrew Murray and Bevin

Andrew Murray and the bust of Bevin at Unite the Union offices

“Ernie Bevin was one of the most eminent trade union leaders of the 20th century.  Born into a very poor family in 1881, he had only elementary schooling.  He started work in Bristol at the age of 13, pushing barrows full of pies around the docks, which were then a major employer in that city.  He became an official of the Dock Workers Union in Bristol before the First World War.

At that time there were several different trade unions for dockers and transport workers.  Bevin worked to bring them all together into one bigger union, able to negotiate with employers at a time of great poverty and exploitation from a position of strength.  That new union was the Transport and General Workers’ Union.  It united dockers, bus drivers, lorry drivers, workers in food and other industries in one union.  By the time of the Second World War, under Bevin’s leadership it became the biggest trade union in the country, also including car workers and employees in other new industries.  Bevin was known as the “dockers QC” for his advocacy of their case for better living standards.  He became the best-known trade union figure in Britain.

Bevin became the T&G’s first General Secretary.  He held the post from 1922 to 1945.  He took leave to serve as Minister of Labour in the coalition government during the Second World War.  In that role he helped mobilise the country’s manpower to win the war against the Nazis.  After Churchill he was arguably the key member of government, since keeping industry working efficiently and at full capacity, at a time when very many workers were in the armed forces, was key to victory.

In 1945 Britain elected the first-ever majority Labour government by a landslide.  Bevin was named Foreign Secretary in the new government, the first working-class person to serve in that prestigious post.  He was part of the government which introduced the National Health Service and other important reforms.  He finally died in 1951, but is remembered as one of the most towering figures of 20th century British history, above all as a representative of the advance of working-class people to positions of influence in our democracy.”

A big thanks to Andrew Murray for putting together this blog. Watch this space for more interesting articles on Ernest Bevin.