Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Prudential project renews Manchester woodlands

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

As part of its Grass Roots environmental programme, Prudential has regenerated a 70-acre urban park.

Manchester residents are celebrating the completion of a seven-month regeneration project that has transformed a neglected urban park into a thriving woodland space.

The Manchester Arndale Grass Roots Project, in Levenshulme, Greater Manchester, is being managed by conservation charity BTCV and funded with £30,000 from Prudential.

Prudential's Grass Roots programme runs a series of environmental improvement schemes in areas near the company's shopping centre developments. After the IRA bombing of Manchester's Arndale Centre in June 1996, the Prudential took over its redevelopment in a £150m commercial project due to be completed this October. Earlier this year, the company started work on regenerating the 70-acre park nearby.

Local primary schools, community groups and BTCV volunteers have been involved in activities at the park such as hedge laying, bug hunting, pond and woodland management and footpath construction. At least 300 volunteers, including 150 schoolchildren and 50 teachers, have been involved. Many volunteers have notched up accredited conservation qualifications in the process.

Katie Lowry, south Manchester project officer for BTCV, said the initiative had brought a "great response" from local people who were enjoying the new picnic area and pond.

"It's a great kickstart for the area because it allows local people to benefit," she said. "Over the past seven months we've noticed a real increase in the numbers of people using the park."

Commercial partners involved in the Arndale Centre redevelopment have also offered their labour and expertise for free. Bovis Lend Lease, the main contractors, supplied a digger to develop the wildflower area. And Arndale project architects Chapman Taylor designed the picnic area, benches and safe play area.

Jon Weymouth, development director at Prudential, said: "We believe partnerships such as Grass Roots are the key to cleaner, greener and safer communities, and we are delighted to have been involved with this initiative.

"We want to ensure we leave Manchester with more than world-class shopping facilities."

COMMENT

Jess Steele, deputy chief executive, British Urban Regeneration Association

As a cross-sectoral organisation, Bura welcomes Prudential's effort in forging regeneration partnerships, especially where these result in the active participation of schools, community groups and voluntary organisations.

This is particularly true in a city such as Manchester, which, having suffered a terrible trauma, has shown real community resilience in regenerating from the devastation caused by the bomb.

The measurement of local interest generated and of the catalytic effect on further regeneration demonstrated by such projects is key to evaluating their achievements. So it is positive to note Kate Lowry's comments regarding the increased use of the park. The local children's interest in woodland management and the environmental aspects of the scheme show the educational and social gains that can be achieved even in an urban environment. We hope this translates into further initiatives for vibrant and sustainable community involvement in the long term.

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