Edinburgh Fresh Start garden goes solar thanks to community benefits scheme
A community growing hub which helps people who have been homeless has become the latest local project to benefit from the City of Edinburgh Council’s community benefits scheme.
Following a great deal of community-based support from buildings solutions service John G Macintosh (JGM), the Pilton-based charity is now benefitting from a new solar power pack – meaning green-fingered volunteers can put the kettle on and enjoy a chat and a tea break while their garden tools charge up.
Allowing everyone involved in the Fresh Start community garden at Ferry Road Drive to shelter from the elements, JGM’s community benefits also includes a new leisure unit, new tables and growing tubs worth £12,000.
Fresh Start is an Edinburgh-based charity helping people who have been homeless get established in their new home. Working with volunteers and community organisations, it delivers a range of services which provide practical and social support to help people resettle successfully.
Councillor Jane Meagher, Edinburgh’s Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work convener, said: “When someone has experienced homelessness, it can be a daunting and difficult transition to a new home, a new local community and a new way of life. We have an incredible third sector in Edinburgh and charities like Fresh Start offer support to people as they settle in. Gardening is a great way to connect with others and with nature in your area. It’s also an opportunity to learn new skills and I’m really pleased we’ve been able to support this community growing initiative. The donations and time clearly mean a lot and will make a big difference.
“As the largest social landlord in the city, the council has a great number of projects underway at any given time to improve or build new homes. Our community benefits scheme is a way for the contractors we employ in housing to give back and we’ve been impressed by John G Mackintosh’s response. It follows their £3.5m contract with us to upgrade vents at six multi-storey Council blocks in Moredun, and now this investment providing safe and warm homes is going full circle.”
Adrienne Mee, community growing manager at Fresh Start, added: “The help we’ve received for the project has exceeded our expectations. The installation of the container is perfect for our planned tool lending library as well as shelter from the weather during gardening sessions. In the spring we will be able to offer garden workshops and tools for people in the area.
“It’s a great resource and we hope it will encourage people to have a go at gardening and help them develop their back greens or grow fruit or vegetables on their balconies. The tables and planters will help us to make this a really nice area for people who live in the flats to relax and enjoy being outside once the weather warms up.”
John Gelletely, director of John G Macintosh (JGM), said: “When JGM first became aware that as part of the Communities Benefit program there was an exciting opportunity to put something back into the community that was tangible, we were excited about the potential of this. After initial discussions and consultation, we were made aware of the Community Garden project at West Pilton, where JGM met up with the Council and Fresh Start to discuss the project further. We established the best position to site a lockable 20 foot container and agreed the design and layout of the paving to interwork with the existing garden area and the new storage container.
“Using JGM’s experience in the sector, it became apparent that in providing a solar panel solution for the container this attribute would add significantly to the benefits and flexibility that the users would have in using the container for their desired requirements. Over two visits JGM firstly did all the groundworks and sited the container in the chosen position and on their second visit the solar panel and internal electrics were added. Some additional works were carried out to install shelving and line the walls within the container, plus some planters and picnic bench seating were supplied to enhance the experience of the end users.”