In summer 2014, Milton Keynes was recognised again as having some of the best parks and open spaces in the UK, adding to a series of similar rewards since 2011. The national ‘Green Flag’ award is handed out by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, which recognises the best green spaces across the country. Cllr Mick Legg, cabinet member responsible for Public Realm which includes parks, said: “Milton Keynes prides itself on having more than 44 million trees with green space making up 40% of the borough.”
Despite serious economic challenges and central government cut-backs over the last few years, the council have managed to maintain a lead when it comes to providing the greatest of open spaces and recreation for the local community. It probably goes without saying, that in creating these award-winning facilities, the council can only afford to choose a landscaping partner who is totally reliable, has decades of experience and is widely known for quality and value.
When Milton Keynes council decided to set even higher standards with their latest Western Road project in Wolverton, they chose to work with us at SLC. After hundreds of projects, this was a big one even for us, making us even more determined than usual not to disappoint.
Extensive planning started for the much needed refresh in 2013. While the rest of the park was perfect for the annual fireworks display and travelling fair, throughout much of the year the old recreation area remained understandably underused; lacking accessible footpaths, lighting or a play area. Quite simply, it was crying out for an SLC make-over.
More than 600 opinions were captured by speaking directly to local people, supplemented by email surveys and a Facebook page. Opinions flooded in from from 7 to 84 year olds, proving what an important space this was for the community and highlighting what they really wanted from it. All the children were in favour of something extra, as were near 90% of adults.
The layout and planned features were shaped directly from this local resident opinion, resulting a new play area which is fun and challenging for older children while also being inclusive for a range of younger adventurers and abilities. An all weather sports area promotes healthy activities for older children and adults alike. With such a large cluster of new facilities, we had to create gentle landscaping to sympathetically integrate into the existing surroundings and reduce the visual impact. Additional paths link to the existing network with chunky wooden benches and a variety of other seating areas arranged around the play equipment. Plus, conveniently placed bins will help keep the area clear of litter.
Everyone is delighted with the final result, with kids of all ages and parents all rushing to try everything out, when facilities were officially opened to the public at the end of September. The new Western Road recreation area has already proved a magnet for community and environmental activities, creating an even greater sense of ownership which we understand the local residents are very proud of.
Of course, the whole SLC team are also immensely proud to have delivered this important project for local residents and being recognised as THE landscaping partner of choice when Milton Keynes council decided to set national standards yet again.