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'Love' Community theme by St Modwen

Shortlisted for Brownfield Awards Category 4 - Best Public Engagement and Participation

Introduction  

Obtaining regulatory sign-off for a soil and/or groundwater remediation project is a key target  for many brownfield professionals. The breadth of investigation, advice, expertise,  consultation and engagement involved in the design and undertaking of remediation can be  extremely significant and the receipt of regulatory approval for the completion of such works often marks a significant milestone. However, for our Strategic Land and Regeneration team,  who execute the role of master developer, the end of the remediation stage often marks the  beginning of a much wider brownfield regeneration phase involving the implementation of  place-making and the creation of communities on such recycled land. It is within this ‘post remediation’ phase that we, St. Modwen, submit our public engagement entry.  

Successful sustainable brownfield regeneration involves an appreciation of the ultimate end users of the land, and, as a land developer, we need to understand who those users are, how  they live, work, travel and enjoy the spaces that we, as a brownfield regeneration specialist,  have created for them. To be truly sustainable, we need to understand how the end-user’s  needs might evolve, over time. We put our communities at the heart of our engagement and  have communicated directly with the residents that are living within some of our large  brownfield regeneration schemes to find out how we are doing in our quest for sustainability  and in a bid to establish what sort of impression we might be leaving behind.

Why?  

We, as St. Modwen Strategic Land and Regeneration, wanted to engage with the communities  that chose to make our brownfield schemes their home. We wanted to find out how they  experience living on brownfield land, long after the remediation technologies have been  removed and the diggers have demobilised. In undertaking this public participation, we  wanted to explore the legacy of our work; what have we created? Have we been successful  in our endeavours to bring land back into beneficial use? And what can we learn through  engaging with our communities? 

Our Objective  

The backdrop of the global health pandemic gave St. Modwen a great opportunity to engage  further with our communities. As such, in February 2021, we encouraged and challenged the  residents living within six of our major brownfield regeneration sites to get outside and  embrace the spaces and environments that we have created for them, and we launched our  “Love” theme. The objective of the Love theme was to encourage residents to actively engage  and shape the developments and communities that they live within, and for them to record  and feedback their experiences through a photography challenge. As developers, we also saw  the initiative as an opportunity for our project teams to actively engage and have personal  contact (socially distanced of course) with residents, something that is so often lost between  developers and residents.  

In undertaking this engagement, the St. Modwen team wanted to understand several  questions. Is brownfield regeneration really working? Is tackling land dereliction, fronting the  cost of clean-up, riding out the programme delays, the unforeseen contamination and the  various risks, the extensive stakeholder liaison, the reporting, the sign-off, is it all worth it?  

What would our communities say...? 

The Six Brownfield Sites  

Our “Love” theme was rolled out across six developments. Locking Parklands, Hilton, St.  Andrew’s Park and Meon Vale are all former Ministry of Defence sites which have required  soil and groundwater remediation of asbestos, hydrocarbons and heavy metals in order to  render the land suitable for re-use. Glan Llyn, which is a former steel works site located near  Newport in Wales, has required remediation to treat a legacy of contaminants including  polyaromatic and petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals and high pH. 

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  Montage of Locking Parklands, Longbridge, Hilton and Glan Llyn  

Longbridge is one of our most high-profile schemes with a manufacturing legacy of over 100  years. Historic industrial activities had left above ground and below ground tunnels, an  underground hospital and a wartime bunker. Redevelopment and regeneration of the land is  ongoing and, to date, has involved extensive soil and groundwater remediation.  

The six sites are at various stages in the development cycle and some are nearing completion.  All six sites have established healthy residential communities and plentiful blue and green spaces.  

The LOVE Theme  

The Love theme included a number of community engagement activities such as; 

 

  • Initiatives to encourage our residents to actively engage with nature 

  • The creation of estate newsletters, websites and place books, to communicate

  • a ‘design your own playground’ competition,  

  • the introduction of place maps, designed to show residents how the development fits  in with the wider community  

  • an Easter bulletin packed full of suggested activities for bank holidays,   the transformation of a former radio wing building into a local COVID vaccination centre  

  • Promotion of physical activity on our regenerated brownfield land, and provided links  to Walking Britain, Cycling UK and Plot a Route for the more strenuous exercise-lovers.

  • Our sign off message was to leave no trace; to take only photos and leave only footprints.

  • a photography competition to enable us to see our developments through the eyes of the residents

We are particularly proud of the numerous activities we have designed to encourage our  residents to engage with nature. These have included initiatives such as participation in the  ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ where our residents made plans with friends and family to take part in  the world’s largest wildlife survey, all from the comfort of their own homes. We provided our  residents with home-made complimentary ‘bird pizza activity kits’ which were then hand delivered (whilst maintaining social distancing rules) to all residents. We have provided  numerous ideas on how to keep our younger residents occupied and we have promoted links  to the Woodland Trust activity sheets, scavenger hunts and other activities which would enable  children to immerse themselves in the natural and biodiverse spaces that we have created  across our developments. 

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Bird Pizza Kits  

Finally, we initiated a photography challenge which involved asking our communities to  document, through photographs, their experiences of living within our developments so we  can see what we have created, through their eyes. 

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Community Newsletter from February 2021  

Community Participation and Results  

The results of our engagement, put quite simply, were overwhelming. We received almost  200 photograph competition entries across our sites, demonstrating not only a clear  willingness to engage but, above all else, we noticed a real sense of pride emerging from the  photographs and thus from the residents living within our brownfield developments.  

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We saw children, families, pets and wildlife enjoying land that once previously stood sterile.  We found out about resident peacocks that had made Locking Parklands their home. We saw  attractive new housing and sleek employment spaces now sitting over previously derelict  landscapes and we saw nature flourishing in the green spaces that we have created over  challenging areas of brownfield land. We saw the beauty in what we have worked so tirelessly  to create over many years and we saw laughter and love in the communities that had made  these spaces their home. We saw, through these photographs, how all of our communities are not just living, but thriving… and it made us feel proud. A further selection of the  engagement entries are shown below:  

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What St. Modwen have learned through our Public Engagement  

This form of engagement has galvanised our efforts and intentions to put the delivery of  sustainable communities and green spaces at the core of what we do. The feedback we have  received through this vital engagement has demonstrated to us the importance of sustainable  brownfield regeneration which, if executed appropriately, can bring significant societal rewards  and environmental benefits. We have, thus far, succeeded in breathing life into our  communities, and have delivered on our objectives. Moving forward, we intend to continue our  engagement with our residents to help shape the places that they want to live in. 

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