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Urban Greening – Sowton

Partner : 02 October 2020

A project that has transformed a bland office site into a wildlife haven, engaging staff to improve the environment and their wellbeing and extending its reach to influence change at neighbouring businesses.

 

There’s a real buzz around our Environment Agency office in Exeter. The wildflowers and plants are blooming with natural colour and the bees, dragonflies, damselflies and other wildlife are all benefitting.

Environment Agency and Defra staff have given their time to transform the bland, wildlife scarce grounds and surrounding areas into a wildlife haven. Over 100 staff have been involved to achieve the following;

 

  • Built a large wildlife pond with another under construction
  • Created 4 large raised beds to grow vegetables for employees (raising £150 for local charity including the Exeter food bank and WaterAid).
  • Planted an orchard with 15 fruit trees
  • Sowed our own wildflower meadow and 4 others at sites across the Exeter Sowton Industrial Estate – with more planned for 2020 spring.
  • Installed 10+ bird and bat boxes, including swift boxes with a decoy call.
  • Habitat creation, including 2 large bug hotels, hedgehog homes and log piles.
  • Created compost heaps.
  • Installed a rainwater harvesting system with a converted, unused oil tank
  • Collected nearly a third of a tonne of litter and provided a solution for clearing up smoking litter.
  • Planted 200 native trees with Exeter Rotary and a neighbouring business

 

It all started when a few like-minded souls shared ideas about doing more with our local office and the local industrial estate. We did some preparation up-front such as risk assessment, finances, and planning and made it easy for staff to contribute by breaking down the project into parts so others could contribute, however large or small their group or the amount of time they could give.

Our Facilities Management team have been exceptional and we have worked with them to overcome some perceived barriers that did not exist.

People are now talking about the transformation and seeing what we can all do. But how did we get people on board initially? Just by talking and being enthusiastic! Talk to people, share your vision, and offer them opportunities to be involved or just have their say. Oh and tweet or yammer to your heart’s content! Of course it doesn’t always work and never worry that you can’t please everyone. But those we have pleased have made the difference.

The project has really captured the imagination of staff and leaders within the Environment Agency and more widely and the ability for it to be replicated on other sites was recognized. So it was fantastic to win several awards, including an Environment Agency Award, a Defra Award and a Civil Service Award.

The project continues to evolve. There’s more to do on site and we are working with Greggs, Pennon Group, Exeter City Council, Devon Wildlife Trust and possibly soon Devon and Cornwall Police.

 

 

Key Outputs

 

  • Improved wildlife habitats with records of species visiting the site.
  • Growing native species of plants.
  • Reducing water use.
  • Growing food locally and organically.
  • Reducing the impact on wildlife and the environment from litter and waste.
  • Improving staff wellbeing through getting involved in positive action and from seeing the beneficial impacts of the project such as wildflowers blooming, wildlife visiting and vegetables growing.
  • Influencing others to follow our example

 

Project lead and partners involved