New Woodland for St Helens

Work has started on creating a new community woodland in St.Helens, as part of one of the countrys biggest green regeneration programmes.

A team of experts from the Forestry Commission is working on a former landfill site in the south of St.Helens to give the area a green makeover.

The new Brickfields Community Woodland will include multi-purpose leisure trails, wildflower meadows and wetland habitats. The whole site, which lies between Lea Green Road and Chester Lane, is equivalent to more than 40 football pitches.

£2.1 million of funding is being provided for the Brickfields project via the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and Forestry Commission partnership programme, ‘Newlands’. A number of local partners, including Ibstock Brick Ltd, The Mersey Forest, St.Helens Council and Groundwork are also involved in the project.

A major operation has just been completed to bring 11,000 tonnes of earth onto the site so that trees can be planted in areas where there was previously no covering of soil. Small hills and other features have also been created, giving the site a more natural look.

New saplings have been planted and additional landscaping work will also create hard wearing trails and other elements such as signage and gates will be installed.

Various groups of local residents are busy helping to design four new gateway entrances for the site, with help from Oneninesixtwo Design.

20 different designs reflecting the history and community spirit of the site will be turned into a resin brick format and incorporated into clay brick kissing gates, sourced from the neighbouring Ibstock brickworks. A series of community design workshops has also been set up by The Mersey Forest.

Bob Baker of Ibstock Brick Ltd. says:
"The brick theme is being used in the site name to remind everyone of the industrial heritage of the area, including the present brickworks next door.

"The original fields were worked for clays and are now being returned to a green use - amenity woodland for the recreation and benefit of the local community."

Later this month more mature trees will be planted on parts of the site, helping to ensure it is quickly transformed into an attractive area of woodland.

A central avenue of English Oaks will be created, with some cherry trees and pine trees to provide variation as people travel from one part of the woodland to another.

When the scheme is complete, it will provide a much improved area of green space for local people and visitors to enjoy.

Simon Brown, Works Supervisor for the Forestry Commission in the North West, says:
"It’s a real pleasure watching the site changing on an almost daily basis. When we’ve finished I think local people are going to be really pleased with the results. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s walking the dog, cycling or running.

"The project also includes a 20-year management plan so people can be confident that this new woodland will be kept in good condition."

The regeneration of the site will also benefit the local economy by helping to improve the image of the area and visually enhancing the main rail route between Manchester and Liverpool. This will help to form part of The Mersey Forest in St.Helens, which has seen the town transformed over the past ten years with the planting of over 2 million trees so far.

St.Helens Council has completed a St.Helens Town in the Forest study that identified the importance of regenerating brownfield sites, such as Brickfields, in helping to secure environmental improvement, which will enhance the image of St.Helens and help to secure direct and indirect economic benefits for the area.

Additional work is being planned for 2009, completing the transformation of the entire Brickfields site.

The plans are part of Newlands, a £59million NWDA-funded land regeneration scheme, which is rejuvenating around 900 hectares of the region's brownfield land to encourage economic growth, while creating new opportunities for leisure and recreation. Newlands, which stands for New Economic Environments Through Woodlands, is a partnership scheme involving the NWDA and the Forestry Commission.

Paul Lakin, Head of Development at the NWDA, said:
"Sustainable development is at the heart of all of the NWDA’s activities and we are delighted to support the sensitive development of Brickfields. New community woodland will not only enhance the environment for local people and visitors, but it will also raise the area’s profile as a place to invest."

Additional funding of over £300,000 from EU Objective One via The Mersey Forest Trust has been secured.

The Brickfields project has also been funded by Biffaward, a multi-million pound environment fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), which utilises landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services.

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