Waste of Space case study: Derby Road

Waste of Space case study: Derby Road

On Derby Road in North End, Portsmouth, local residents identified empty planters, that were once presumably filled with plants, but had been left abandoned for many years. When we, PFoE, approached our members about where they might like to see more trees and greenery in their area, this location was suggested.

On Derby Road in North End, Portsmouth, local residents identified empty planters, that were once presumably filled with plants, but had been left abandoned for many years. When we, PFoE, approached our members about where they might like to see more trees and greenery in their area, this location was suggested.  

Community group takes action: 

The project to breathe new life into these empty planters was a collaborative one. PFoE may have started the conversation, but with the help of Wilder Communities Projects officer, Andy Ames, a community group was found to adopt the space. Creative Advances, who are based a few doors down from the planters and who already run a gardening group, agreed to adopt the space and look after the bed for us.  

Bench surrounded by raised beds with overgrown plants and bin bags in the background

Planning the transformation:  

The existing planters made choosing what to do with the waste of space super easy. The planters were the perfect spot to plant small trees and other plants that would attract some more wildlife to the area.  

Finding support:  

Andy Ames (Wilder Communities Officer at the Wildlife Trust) was incredibly helpful at all stages of the project and at a time when PFoE was struggling because of Covid restrictions. Using his network of local contacts, he was able to source and transport three crab apple trees which form part of the Charles Dickens Orchard Trail. He also put us in touch with Fark, a local community street artist who will paint a mural nearby. He provided gloves and a sharps box and helped transport gardening tools. He helped with heavy tasks such as digging out deep rooted overgrown weeds and carrying bags of mulch.  

PFOE members also worked collaboratively local councillors who suggested that we bid for Community Infrastructure Funding. Our bid was successful and has enabled us to buy plants and mulch as well materials for a mural. We have continued to keep the councillors involved throughout the process.  

Challenges faced:

Our main challenge was gaining permission from the landowner. We had to track down the landowner via the Land Registry and via the web - they turned out to be a large property management company based in the West Midlands. Fortunately, they agreed to let us revive the planters! 

Coronavirus restrictions also made it quite difficult to plant anything during spring. There was a lot of rubbish to clear including broken bottles, a lot of plastic and a few sharps. We completed Covid risk assessments and arranged site clearance, planting and mulching sessions at short notice and with limited numbers of volunteers on site. We made sure we had a sharps box, thick gloves and arranged for the Council to remove a large quantity of rubbish as well as the green waste which went for composting.  

Raised beds with newly planted shrubs, trees, and other plants

Pictured: Friends of the Earth and Andy Ames, Wilder Communities Officer

Derby Road – what does it look like now?: 

The main planting has happened and now we wait until the plants settle in and grow.

As this is an inner-city location, it needs to look attractive all year round.  We've recently worked with FARK whose mural will provide colour and interest in winter particularly, and the trees, shrubs and perennials will provide yearlong food for bees and other insects. 

View of raised bed with plants. In the back there's a brick wall with a mural of birds, painted by FARK

Is there a #WasteOfSpace in your area?

With a lot of wasted space in our towns and cities, there's a tremendous opportunity to transform these spaces into bright colourful places full of life. Any area, no matter how small, will contribute to a Nature Recovery Network, and help rewild where we live.

Get involved!