Green View Community Garden. Local Development at Work

Nurturing Healthy Communities – Green View Community Garden

One of the key issues highlighted in Dublin North West Area Partnership’s 2011 – 2013 Strategic Plan was the impact of crime and anti social behaviour on the social fabric or connectedness of some neighbourhoods within the catchment.

In a number of interviews, undertaken in preparing the plan, local people highlighted how they were often afraid to volunteer or get involved in their community as they would be putting their head above the parapet and may become the victims of anti social behaviour. Over many years the impact of this behaviour can lead to residents feeling isolated and vulnerable; particularly older people. Addressing such issues present a real challenge for urban based Local Development Companies.

Dublin North West Area Partnership’s catchment contains a number of areas that are impacted by such issues. These areas are often associated with high levels of urban disadvantage and are characterised by low education attainment, high unemployment rates, and lone parenting. Once such area is Finglas South which lies to the north of the Tolka River and is comprised four electoral districts with a population of 11,574 (CSO 2011). Within these electoral districts 12 small areas are identified as being very disadvantaged (Haase and Pratschke, 2012) with an average male unemployment rate of 46% and a third level participation rate of 3.6%—the average for Dublin is 47% (Humphreys, 2014).

Through its work with the Fingal Centre in Finglas West and St. Helena’s House in Finglas South Dublin North West Area Partnership has seen the benefits that community gardens bring to an area; particularly with regard to building community cohesion and enabling social inclusion. For example in 2013 Dublin North West Area Partnership provided a small grant to The Meeting Place Club, a volunteer led youth group for children with intellectual disabilities, to secure and develop a number of raised beds in a community garden in Prospect Hill in Finglas South. The project was very successful in building social cohesion and relations across the community and in shifting perceptions with regard to intellectual disability. Many of the older men who maintained allotments in the garden became active participants in the project and worked with the club and the children in constructing the raised beds and garden furniture for wider community use.  

Seeing the potential of such activities Dublin North West Area Partnership began discussions with Dublin City Council (DCC) in 2013 with a view to securing a temporary lease on a number of derelict sites across the Finglas South area. Earmarked for social housing the sites had become associated with anti-social behaviour, illegal fly tipping and placed a considerable burden on DCC’s resources to maintain. Recognising these sites as community assets Dublin North West Area Partnership prepared a proposal as to how these sites could be better utilised for wider community gain. The proposal was submitted to Dublin City Council’s local area office for consideration. Receiving the full support of DCC’s Area Housing Manager it went before the local area committee and approval was given to proceed in developing one of the sites on the Tolka Valley Road. The opportunity to develop the other two sites, both of which were larger, had passed due to the growing housing crisis in Dublin.

Image of Green View Community Garden SignEarly in June of 2014 DCC began work on clearing and levelling the site and arranged for the delivery of timber and topsoil to construct 50 raised beds. Dublin North West Area Partnership allocated a budget, secured under the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP), a site supervisor and four Tús Work Placement Participants to begin constructing the garden. To date 48 raised beds have been completed with 36 allocated to local residents. Others have been allocated to organisations including Pavee Point and the Finglas Men’s Group. A local youth club has also linked in with the garden and will help in developing the surrounding grounds. Additional supports have also been received from the Coolmine Therapeutic Centre, Groundwork UK and Kaethe Burt O’Dea of the LifeLines Project and Spuds.ie; a project to save traditional varieties of potatoes and promote the use of blight resistant potatoes.

The majority of men that have applied for, and secured, raised beds are unemployed and from adjoining neighbourhoods; one of which has a male unemployment rate of 60%. Their ages range from late teens to mid to late 50s and many of the older men can now be found advising younger participants on how best to prepare their beds, what plants to get and how to plant them. Quite a number of local women have also applied for beds and the project has taken on a real intergenerational aspect. Other organisations have begun to use the site as a mechanism to connect with local residents and on September the 11th the Irish Heart Foundation’s Roadshow visited the site as part of its Irish Heart Month health promotion initiative.

Image of man working in community gardenSuch activities provide a great opportunity for Local Development Companies to align a number of programmes for wider community gain, develop programme synergies and promote social inclusion. In this instance Dublin North West Area Partnership’s use of LCDP and Tús with the assistance of DCC provided enough support to get this project up and running giving residents of disadvantaged areas a chance to participate in social inclusion activities while strengthening the fabric of a community.

For more information contact Leon Kelly @ 01 8361666.

Humphreys, J. (2014, August 20th ). Irish Times Education . Retrieved September 12th , 2014, from irishtimes.com: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/some-99-of-dublin-6-students-go-on-to-third-level-1.1901885