Tag Archive | community

Space Saviours – transforming open spaces

Space Saviours is a dynamic new project helping tenants transform open spaces in their local community. We’ve asked Rachel Lovell, Open Spaces Project Officer at Space Saviours, to tell us about progress to date:


Space Saviours is a 2 year Big Lottery project between four housing associations – United Welsh, Valleys 2 Coast, Bron Afon and Tai Calon – and is aimed at turning empty spaces into great places. The project offers training, support and guidance to help plan, design and transform open spaces.


Workshop sessions were held from April to July this year on Tuesday evenings at Virginia Park Golf Club in Caerphilly. Attendance was good with over 45 people engaging in a variety of informal training sessions hosted by organisations such as Keep Wales Tidy, Play Wales, Sustrans, Natural Resources Wales, The Urbanists and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.


Tenants were able to share and discuss their ideas and explore themes such as natural play, biodiversity, sustainable design, getting around your neighbourhood and community growing.


Targets for the first year of the project are to support and guide 5 Community Projects in each of the four housing association areas and United Welsh tenants and community members had loads of amazing ideas and enthusiasm! 5 Community Projects were selected and matched with appropriate Supporting Organisations to explore landownership, sustainability of the project and to further develop their designs, costings, and plans.

Space Saviours 1

Tenants from New Tredegar have ideas to transform this space into a wildflower meadow that the whole community can enjoy. The space is currently overgrown and very steep, but has lots of potential. This Community Project has been matched with Keep Wales Tidy who will be working closely with the group to develop and finalise their designs and costings.


Newport tenants are enjoying their new housing development, but some are frustrated by the lack of semi-private space outside their block of flats and would also like to develop the outside area to make better use of it.

Space Saviours 2

Some of their ideas have included developing a natural play area for children to enjoy and planting shrubs. They have also been matched with Keep Wales Tidy to fully explore design ideas to provide more private space around the flats and identify the soil to see what can be planted.


Over in Cardiff, a tenant is keen to develop the use of a lovely parcel of land, over looked by many houses and surrounded by beautiful trees into a natural play area for children, parents and grandparents to enjoy.


Currently just used to walk dogs, the area has the potential to be so much more. This project has been matched with an organisation called Play Wales, who specialise in designing natural play areas for all ages.

Space Saviours 3

Two other Community Projects involve a group of residents from Trevelyan Park in Caerphilly who want to design and install better access for pram and wheelchair users around their estate and develop play areas that the community can enjoy. They have so many ideas! They have been matched with Ground Work Caerphilly who will develop designs and costings and Play Wales to fully explore the dynamics of the potential area.


By November of this year, all 5 Community Projects will have a project plan and the Space Saviours Project Officers will support them in identifying and obtaining funding to realise the project.


The next round of workshop training sessions are currently being developed and will take place in Spring 2015. If you would like to find out more about Space Saviours, please feel free to call Rachel Lovell, Open Spaces Project Officer on 07990 835363 anytime.


Creative thinking

As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, our Director of Housing and Communities Lynda Sagona takes a look at the culture of United Welsh and how that has shaped the way we deliver for our communities.

Lynda 1 (2)


Who was it that said ‘the only thing that is constant is change’? Having Googled it I can confirm it was Heraclitus. I’ve not met him but it is a good quote!

Gosh, have we all seen some change in the past five years? … and much of that change has been challenging. But it has challenged us to work differently, with tenants, with partners and as a team and while we may have been fearful of it and nervous about the future (just as I was when I joined the organisation 5 years ago!) we can now look back and recognise that actually that change, in many cases imposed on us by the external environment, has resulted in some very positive outcomes. Gone are the days when we did things because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’.

The prospect of Welfare Reform caused us to take a step back, review how we work with our tenants and really consider how best we can align our services and our support. So what’s changed as a result of that? We talk to our tenants more and we know much more about them. We see our tenants more – some of them now work with us and many help us to develop our services. We meet with them to support them with money management. We tailor delivery of information and services to meet individual needs.

We are thinking outside of the traditional box and we recognise that we will need to continue to do this. If we are to address need in an environment of significantly reduced public spending, we must continue to work flexibly, to develop new solutions to housing need, to feel confident to flex tenures and to deliver services in new ways.

When I joined the sector it was very traditional in its approach to service delivery. At United Welsh we’ve broken the mould. Our asset management delivery model, embodied in Celtic Horizons, is the first of its kind in Wales, employing our tenants and offering training opportunities. We deliver repairs on a day and at a time to suit the customer, minimising visits with the introduction of the Complete Property Service. We work productively with social enterprise partners. There’s more to do but we are continually listening and learning.

The recent partnerships we have developed are fresh and sustainable. They are not partnerships that are imposed on us but those forged from shared values and a common vision to make a difference to people’s lives. If ten years ago someone had said that a Registered Social Landlord would develop, in partnership with the Local Authority, a library and a clinic at the heart of a town centre regeneration initiative, making a massive difference to the community, people would have laughed and told us to stick with building homes.

At United Welsh we are very lucky to have a team that is always up for the challenge, constantly reviewing what we are doing and how we are doing it. To have a team that is so engaged and committed to doing its best for our customers provides us with such a fantastic platform for development and creativity. It is the ‘Can Do’ attitude.

More change ahead?  I think that Heraclitus would say deffo… Are we up for it? Deffo!





Bid brings benefits to Blackwood group

Tenants of United Welsh Living+ scheme Fitzroy Lodge in Cefn Fforest, Blackwood are celebrating following news that they have been successful in applying for a grant from the Cefn Fforest Ward Communities First Trust Fund.


The proactive community at the complex set up their own residents association last year in order to help their own community get active and give themselves a voice enabling them to feed thoughts and views into United Welsh efficiently and effectively.


Following their ‘big launch’ in October, which was attended by local MP Chris Evans, the group worked hard on consulting with residents on what items they would like to bid for.   A representative from GAVO supported the group in their application.  They have been eagerly awaiting the news and are delighted to have been awarded £4921.13!


The money will be funding new computers and digital cameras for the complex as the group has set up a Facebook page and are taking part in digital photography classes. It will also be going towards events and trips for the resident’s throughout the year and a Wii Fit package.


The pro-active group is not simply resting on its laurels; they have been out and about at other United Welsh Living+ schemes highlighting the benefits of their work. 


Delwyn Davies Chair of the group exclaimed his joy at the news; “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this funding from Communities First. The group has had a hugely positive impact on all those who get involved at Fitzroy Lodge and this money will help us to continue this work.  We are planning trips to Swansea, St Fagans, Bridgend and Tenby for starters giving all the members of our community the chance to get out easily safely and above all have fun!”


Jo Green, Head of Living+ at United Welsh added; “United Welsh are thrilled to see that the Fitzroy Lodge Residents Association has come so far in such a short time.  Their proactive approach has increased interactivity amongst their community, and with us. We are keen to support groups such as these to help them to release their potential and to achieve their goals.


Fitzroy Lodge was built in 1980, there are 36 one-bedroom properties in the Living + complex.  Living+ provides housing to people 55yrs of age and over. It is a service that specialises in meeting the lifestyle needs of this group of customers and is committed to developing services as people’s needs change.

Helsinki SB11 – Tuesday 18th October 2012

Day 2, and the start of the conference proper.  A great start to proceedings with some excellent key-note contributions.  Notable for me was the theme of community, and in particular the notion of localisation as a reaction to globalisation, and that buildings should not be looked at on their own, but as part of the wider community’s drive to achieve carbon neutrality.  This is a long term issue, and it was interesting to see references to articles published way back in 1971 and specifically one called “Life Support Systems for a Dying Planet”….uplifting stuff!!!  Rather bleak cartoon hit home showing Noah’s Ark on the tip of Mount Everest surrounded by a vast ocean.  “Do something now” was the message from Dr. Bill Bordass, Advisor to the Usable Buildings Trust (www.usablebuildings.co.uk).

There is a clear emphasis on time here.  Speakers looking back 40 years, assessing now, and then taking a speculative punt at where we will be in 40 years.  The “Relevance of Time” (Richard Lorch, Editor “Building Research & Information”) discussed how as humans we tend to operate on 5 year plans, perhaps 10 years, but anymore is not something that generally happens…yet, we have to with Climate Change.

That was the scene set.  Passivhaus is clearly very topical at United Welsh Housing Association given the recent developments at the Former Steelworks site in Ebbw Vale.  So, the chance to hear about some Norwegian examples was opportune.  I was very interested to hear the researcher explain that education was the key, and that they had not properly addressed this with end users.  Even to the extent that where the end users were known, they were not involved in the design/construction process.  Control systems were not understood, and it is apparent that a better approach from building designers and managers is needed to deal with this lack of knowledge.  “Soft Landings” is a concept that deals with this process and is worth reviewing: this is a systematic approach to hand-holding end-users through the design intent behind a building to ensure the design purpose matches the use.

The Poster Presentation went well.  United Welsh, in collaboration with UWIC, Cardiff assessed in a study at its new development in Bargoed, Caerphilly, South Wales the impact of installing Exhaust Air Source Heat Pumps from an environmental impact perspective.  It also considers tenant use, attitudes and the effect on running costs.  This was well received by academics from Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Japan and Australia…..the world stage has been reached!!!

It really has been a day that can only be described as seminar speed dating.  Over 120 presentations have been delivered.  The keynote sessions were followed by 4 further sessions.  Each of those had between 4-7 12 minute presentations regarding specific studies.  Since some of the papers are of varying degrees of interest, delegates bound from one room to another to ensure they hear the one of specific concern to them.  A really novel and exciting way to attend a conference.  Film clip to follow illustrating the point.

Finally, the most memorable aspect of today was how the world is more in tune than we realise.  One speaker talked of “empowering local people to create and input into development” and providing “assistance to create vibrant smaller towns with self-sustaining economic systems”.  I could have been listening to a talk about the South Wales valleys…..but this was delivered by Alfred Ngowi from the University of Botswana in assessing the impact of the rapid urbanisation of Africa.  Sounded quite close to home, and it strikes me that the global issues really does mean local.

Gareth Davies