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New community spirit blooms thanks to SPA innovative fund

The tenants at Oliphant Court in Paisley can now enjoy an inclusive community garden, complete with a secret garden and accessible paths and benches.

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Residents in a Paisley high rise are being given a major well-being boost thanks to a donation of £10,000 from an innovative community benefit fund.

Tenants at Oliphant Court in Foxbar have benefitted from an inclusive community garden, complete with a secret garden and accessible paths and benches.

Paisley Housing Association, which owns and manages Oliphant Court, held a consultation with its tenants, many of whom suffer from high levels of social isolation. A key priority emerged to create a safe, private area outdoors to enjoy and socialise with other tenants.

The grant from SPA enabled Paisley Housing Association to create a wildlife-friendly, landscaped garden with areas for people to sit and enjoy the outdoors, and a raised accessible allotment for planting flowers and vegetables.

Lorna Gilroy, Head of Housing at Paisley Housing Association, said: “Residents at Oliphant Court were faced with many challenges – its location means it is further away from many of the amenities in Paisley and it lacked sufficient outdoor space for tenants to enjoy.

“The community garden project has been amazing for our residents. It’s had an extremely positive response, especially this year as it’s enabled people to easily get outside for fresh air and continue to socialise, while remaining socially distant.

“We designed the garden so it could have a seating area, planting area, and some allotments for residents to grow their own fruit and veg. Connecting with the outdoors has really given our residents a new lease of life.

“One of the support workers for a resident said the garden is excellent as the resident is unable to walk too far and doesn’t leave his house often, so going outside for short walks in the garden is ideal.”

In addition to the community garden which has a BBQ and picnic area, a secret garden was created to make use of a natural suntrap and offer a space with more privacy to residents.

Paisley Housing Association owns and manages 1,204 properties across five communities in Paisley, many of which are located in some of the most deprived areas of Scotland. Of the 56 flats at Oliphant Court, 18 are home to residents with mobility issues and a variety of health conditions, with the majority of tenants being over the age of 50.

As a not-for-profit organisation, any surplus generated by SPA - which partners with public sector bodies to fulfil construction, refurbishment and maintenance contracts - is re-distributed into SPA’s Community Benefit Fund and Rebates. SPA’s 14-strong Executive Board members (made up of local authorities and registered social landlords) are eligible to apply for a portion of the fund each year to use for projects in their local community.

SPA works alongside Lintel Trust who manage the fund and ensuring projects and causes support local needs and communities.

Overall, the Community Benefit Fund has handed out grants totalling nearly £500,000 over the last three years – and has helped to generate nearly £375,000 in match funding, meaning it has helped to give Scottish communities a near £1m boost.

In its last financial year (2019-20), £130,000 was distributed to 15 projects across Scotland and benefitted nearly 19,000 people directly – with another £94,000 being achieved in match funding.

SPA Director, Clive Feeney, said: “The Fund is all about making an impact in our Partner’s local area, to provide opportunity and prosperity to communities which would not otherwise have the means to fund their ambitions. This year we have been particularly focused on directing the Fund to support projects that bring benefits to people whose lives have been turned upside down because of COVID-19.

“Paisley Housing Association’s ambition is precisely the types of project we encourage with our Fund, and we are delighted that we can help contribute with this boost to their community plans.”

Projects undertaken through SPA totalled £237.8million in 2019-20 – up nearly 50% on the previous year. SPA also achieved a milestone in the last year by signing up its 100th registered partner.

SPA, which operates from a head office in Livingston, has a team of dedicated experts who are firmly focused on championing best practice and ensuring partners can benefit from access to specialist procurement solutions that deliver social value in its communities.

Pictured: Paisley Community Garden

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