Paisley Housing Association’s gardening initiative proves successful
A pioneering initiative implemented by Paisley Housing Association to improve gardens in Paisley’s west end has been hailed a huge success.
The association launched its “West End Transformation Project” almost a year ago to deliver improvements to over 20 of its tenement blocks.
It turned its attention to the gardens after many years of improving tenants’ actual homes in what is the association’s biggest-ever drive to improve the local environment.
The Association secured funding from the Scottish Government’s “Aspiring Communities Fund” to enable it to undertake the project and at the same time establish an employability and training- focused landscaping team to deliver the project.
New slabs have been put down, new turf laid, bin shelters improved, seating created, garden drainage improved and even fruit trees planted at no cost to the residents.
Streets involved have been Castle Street – where Paisley Housing Association unveiled a mural recently, George Place and Argyle Street.
This week one tenant Irene Irvine called the transformation of the back garden she enjoys “simply amazing”.
She said: “I could never have imagined the back court would be improved in such a way. New turf has been laid and the drainage fixed. Before it was muddy and you couldn’t walk on it. I’m very grateful for what has been done.”
Neighbour Gordon Bennie added: “It’s marvellous. It is like a new garden. I can now sit out here when it’s good weather.”
Leading the project for Paisley Housing Association is coordinator Duncan Clelland who said the initiative had benefited the community in a number of ways.
Mr Clelland said: “Before we undertook the back court improvements we listened very carefully to what people wanted to see happen. Residents have been involved throughout the project helping develop plans for the back courts.
“The enthusiasm to get involved has been impressive showing that people really wanted to get involved with about 45% of our west end residents becoming involved in the project in one way or another”.
There has also been an employment aspect to the project given that the work has had to be carried out by a landscaping team – recruited with help from Invest in Renfrewshire – the job creation wing of Renfrewshire Council.
Four apprentice landscapers were recruited including Reece Wyllie, for whom the project is his first job.
Mr Wyllie said: “I was keen to leave school and get involved in this kind of work so the project happened at just the right time for me. Like all of us we are paid the Scottish Living Wage and the skills we are learning are fantastic. Making the back courts better for people is a reward in itself.”
Training the apprentices has been a key priority throughout the project. As the project comes to an end in December Reece – along with his landscaping colleagues Dale Caveney, Rob McGeoch and Adnan Iqbal - will be undertaking certified courses in areas such as tree surgery and landscaping.
Crucially, this will be supported financially by Paisley Housing Association to ensure they are fully equipped for a future career in landscaping.
Paisley Housing Association’s chief executive Kathleen McCutcheon said: “We wanted to do something differently when we were developing plans for improving the back courts by not only placing residents at the centre of the plans but providing employment and training opportunities.
“This project perfectly illustrates the important role housing associations have in the community to make real improvements which enhance people’s lives. Undoubtedly, the West End Transformation Project has done just that.”