On behalf of the National Housing Maintenance Forum (NHMF) I would like to thank all our contributors for the time spent preparing these articles and for sharing their views and expertise. All the articles relate to the perennial balancing act of using the available budget to provide good, safe housing to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Wouldn’t it be nice if housing was the topic on every politician’s lips during the forthcoming election? There is a wealth of academic research showing how improvement in housing conditions reduce health problems and improves educational attainment (Freidman.D, 2010 ECOTECH.com), so it must follow that investment in housing can be shown to have a triple economic benefit. Please remember to point this out if a politician crosses your path.
In March, M3 moved to new offices which certainly made us feel better. The new space is the result of a six month refurbishment of what was at one time the local pub, The Three Kings. Before you protest, you should know that there are six other pubs within walking distance so the area will not be dry as a result of our intervention. The building had been derelict for two years before we decided to save it. The many site visits arising from the builders regular calls announcing, ‘I think you should come and see what we’ve found’, would have been hard to manage if they hadn’t been just round the corner. The move took us 100 yards from number 5 to number 23 Commonside East in Mitcham, Surrey.
The Three Kings has taught us much more than we could have predicted. Our neighbours have welcomed us, and told us many, happy stories about celebrations of birthdays, jubilees and weddings held at the pub, counterbalanced by tales of anger, violence and wrong doing within its walls. We are very alert to the changes that have taken place since it was first built in 18th century and rebuilt in 1926. It is a clear reminder of how buildings depend on people to maintain them and bring them to life.
Mitcham was once known for its gardens, nationally famous for herbs and lavender and internationally recognised for mint, being a major centre for cultivating new varieties. Most of the mint in sweets and toothpaste today comes from massive scale production in America where they mostly grow a variety called Mitcham Black.
From 1930 to 1960, in common with villages around London, the big garden of Mitcham became another suburb, and by 1950 the school children were being bussed out to work the harvest on farms during the summers, as local crops production had ceased. We have been wondering for a number of years how we might help to reintroduce an interest in the environment and food production for future generations.
A chance conversation with a client led us to the headmistress of one of the largest local primary schools which educates 700 children. She had a vision about showing her pupils and families the heritage of Mitcham through providing a space to learn about cultivating plants and growing food. A three way partnership evolved using the skills and knowledge of the staff at Deen City Farm (deencityfarm.co.uk), the expertise of the staff at Liberty School and sponsorship from M3 to create an outdoor learning centre with a wild flower meadow, fruit trees, herbs, vegetables and plenty of space for large numbers of children.
The rain came down to bless the opening of the garden in April where, apparently oblivious to the weather, pupils spent a happy, muddy day planting the first seeds, plants and trees while adults, including parents, local politicians and M3 staff, looked on with envy trying to remember a time when they didn’t notice rain filling their shoes. We hope they will all return to do the weeding when the sun shines.
The garden is a good example of how much can be achieved with a small amount of money when placed in the hands of the right people. This brings me back to the articles in this Bulletin where we hear from the experts who all remind us how important it is to apply budgets with careful consideration. I hope that you will find it useful and informative.