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Video and Podcast: Burnham Parish Council transforms area known for criminal activity

‘A labour of love’ was the phrase used to describe Burnham Parish Council’s efforts to transform an area of the village known for criminal activity.

Anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and fly-tipping were just some of the issues affecting the area between St Peter’s Close and Opendale Road – encompassing footpath 57, a former wooded area and St Peter’s playground.

The area has now been transformed as part of Project 57, which was established in January 2018 after the parish council recognised the need to formally initiate work to transform the area.

In August 2016, after receiving reports from the public of anti-social behaviour and illegal activity around St Peter’s playground and the footpath, the council arranged a multi-agency meeting with organisations including Thames Valley Police, South Bucks District Council (SBDC) and Bucks County Council (BCC), in a bid to tackle these issues.

The first action taken, which involved clearing the area between the playground and footpath 57, saw offenders on community payback (service) help to clear a ‘significant amount’ of the debris and vegetation to improve access to the footpath in September 2016.

In 2017, the group further contributed to the transformation by painting over the graffiti along the footpath, while the council also undertook the task of refurbishing the hexagonal swings in the playground, and upgrading two lampposts, including installing vandal-proof lights.

Project 57 has cost £90,000 in total, and has received £70,000 from its main sponsor Veolia Environmental Trust, as well as grants from the parish council, Tesco and the Burnham Health Promotion Trust.

Further improvements to St Peter’s playground between 2018 and 2019 included a ‘Bobbin Boat’ rocker, resurfacing the flooring underneath the equipment and installing a new basketball court.

Flattening the area, establishing a path, creating a viewing platform and opening up a stream has been also undertaken for a wild play area.

The parish council held a public consultation on the designs for the wild play area in April 2019, which deputy parish clerk Tabish Wazir said was met with ‘amazing feedback’ and recommended ‘one or two’ enhancements.

Improvements to the damaged areas of the footpath surface were also carried out in October 2018, while new perimeter fencing was installed around the wild play area in November 2018.

A nature-themed mural depicting words from poet Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken has been painted onto a large wall along the footpath walkway, which was formerly covered in graffiti.

Year seven students from the former E-ACT Burnham Park Academy, took part in a series of workshops with Oxford-based street artist Andrew ‘Mani’ Manson-Reeves before spending the day painting the mural with him in May 2019.

Sheridan Jacklin-Edward, former parish clerk, said: “[In the workshop] they were asked to come up with different ideas for what would work there and the theme of nature came up.

“The central swan head in the centre reflects the symbol for Buckinghamshire.”

In 2019, two additional CCTV cameras were installed along the footpath, five new street lights were added to improve visibility and safety and the wild play area was once again reinvigorated with the addition of benches and natural play equipment.

The project also saw the parish council liaise with L&Q Housing Association, which owns a number of the properties backing onto the footpath, to have its back garden fencing replaced, which was completed in August 2019.

About 30 members of the community took part in a planting day, organised by the parish council and facilitated by Chiltern Rangers, in October.

The event saw groups including 1st Burnham Brownies and Burnham Youth Club take part in planting bulbs and plants donated by the community in a bid to encourage wildlife.

Annie Arscott, parish clerk, said: “It was Chiltern Rangers' skill set really. It was wonderful because they were teaching the children about indigenous trees and what this or that particular plant was, and they were fascinated.”

Tabish said: “It’s been a labour of love for so many different people.”

Future ideas for the wild play area include bug hotels, hedgehog hotels and bat boxes.

The grand opening for the area which was set to take place on Saturday, March 21 has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

To take part in a competition to rename the area visit: park-renaming

Listen to our podcast discussing the area and how it was created below: 

Teamwork and the creation of the nature-themed mural

An artist has spoken of his pride in helping year seven students at a former secondary school create a street art mural as part of Project 57.

Oxford-based Andrew ‘Mani’ Manson-Reeves, said: “It’s what I do anyway and working with people who are enthusiastic and kind of want to do what you do anyway is a win-win situation.”

He added: “As part of the sessions they [the children] were well-practiced and they knew what they were doing, so we could move forward. When we did it we were a well-oiled engine moving forward – getting everyone working together as a team.

“Teamwork was the key really.

“The school was very vocal to me that they wanted to see that the group were engaging with the community. The whole point was they were painting the mural and I was just helping them along.

“The joy of it was if you made a mistake it didn’t matter too much, you could just go over it.

“My hope is that locals will look at it and not, over time, just become really bored of it. Hopefully they will find something else within it that would make them more interested.”

Former parish clerk, Sheridan Jacklin-Edward, said: “I really love it. Considering it was done in one day by a very young group of pupils who had only been working on the idea for a number of weeks, then I think what they’ve created is fantastic.”

Annie Arscott, parish clerk, said: “It actually morphs, the message goes through and every time I go past that I read something different.

“So it’s worth going down every time you go past that go and have a look.”

Aiming to increase biodiversity in the area

A former parish councillor and volunteer who has been involved in Project 57 from the start has discussed her ideas to encourage more wildlife into the wild play area.

Paula Prince, said: “I thought bird boxes, bug hotels and bat boxes would be good as I was keen to increase biodiversity.”

Through her volunteering work at Cliveden, Paula asked for help with the bird boxes and 10 were donated to the project.

“I’d seen a very clever idea for making bug hotels on a TV programme so I asked people for old wire hanging baskets and had some donated which will be made up into bug hotels at the next planting day.

“The last planting day went really well. I put an appeal out for plants and the local community were fantastic.”

She added: “Hedgehogs are so important for the environment and for helping to maintain biodiversity.

“With this in mind I felt that putting hedgehog houses, bat boxes, bug hotels, bird boxes and toad houses etc in the wild play area would be a great start to help increase the biodiversity of this area and also teach children the importance of nature.”

Talking about the wild play area former parish clerk, Sheridan Jacklin-Edward, said: “We came up with various ideas and we also used a survey done by Burnham Health Promotion Trust about 10 years before where they had asked people what they would like to see there.

“Then we worked with a local landscape architect on various designs and Chiltern Rangers as well to come up with the final designs for it.”

NOTE: Interviews for this article were conducted before the Government-imposed lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

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