In the beginning

The Manor estate along with neighbourhoods like Wybourn and Skye Edge faced serious problems following the collapse of Sheffield’s major manufacturing industries on which most families were dependent financially. The consequence was a rapid decline, from it being a relatively wealthy working area to an estate with a high dependency on benefits and the resulting poverty.

This was compounded by a contemporaneous deterioration in the housing stock, the inevitable result being social decline: increased crime; poor educational attainment; high unemployment; poor health.

By 1996, the Manor estate was labelled the ‘worst estate in Britain’. The Guardian article that labelled the Manor in this way galvanised local people into taking action. Out of this first emerged the Manor and Castle Development Trust who amongst many other things became the accountable body for  what seemed at the time a substantive amount of SRB 3 grant funding. In doing so the Trust created a new model for neighbourhood change.  Rooted in community development but  accepting a need for long term stewardship, seeking to establish local assets  and longer term programmes  that would address wellbeing and inclusion for all.

1998 saw the start of the embryonic Green Estate. Originally an 18 month funded project with 2 staff the  Environment and Heritage programme, quickly established itself as a major element of the  overall regeneration approach.

Grant funding for 4 years was eventually secured in 1999

This set out  to :

  • Address the universal poor quality public open space
  • Use the environment and heritage programme to address exclusion
  • Start to re build social capital in a way that would create a lasting legacy after grant funding

A strategy of interrelated initiatives that could create sustainable change was developed. This included regeneration plans for all local green spaces – from parks woodlands, school grounds, historic monuments and allotments to housing areas, demolition sites, local shopping centres and road side verges

Interconnecting projects were also progressed to start to address some of the root causes of poor quality. Pilot approaches to more coordinated greenspace management tackled local issues about leadership, standards, monitoring and communication.

In addition some of the big issues around sustainability and functional greenspace were explored. We established pilot approaches to use urban greenspace for energy, waste, local food, art, training, health and employment.

2004 : Transition from a Project to a Social Enterprise

In the early years there was an assumption that land would transfer to the local Development Trust and that we would act as a local land management agency. When it became obvious that this was not going to happen, we had to make substantial changes to our approach.

Instead of receiving core funding to support ongoing green space management we had to develop core commercial activities that could support a reasonably sized ‘green’ organisation still capable of addressing the areas environmental issues.

This approach has resulted in the mix of commercial sales and services and social / environmental activities that we now deliver and can be read about on this website.

Despite the improvements to the physical fabric of the area and the investment in community development, many of the issues are deeply rooted and the remediation strategies that are now in place will take many years to bear fruit.

Today

Against the odds  most of our original ambitions have been achieved which  on a good day makes us feel really positive. We have provided some of the leadership and vision and have taken lots of risks but the reality is that these achievements are the sum of many different people and organisations working mostly together.

The value of  having the right people around you, some ambitious joined up thinking, a lot of persistence, and not a little luck have all been essential ingredients in getting to where we are now – a better looking, much more resilient place to live, work and enjoy life from.

Looking Forward

Unfortunately the  Manor and Castle neighbourhoods still rank in the bottom deciles of the government’s Index of Deprivation and the reality of daily life for many local people is still defined by poverty, ill health, limited opportunity and  a lack of aspiration which impacts on local people’s ability to take up opportunities that do present themselves.

Our neighbourhood contains, and is likely to continue to contain, a higher percentage of the most vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ people where  raising aspirations and challenging the deep embedded cultural norms and attitudes that perpetuate needs a sustained and mutli faceted approach

Against this is the background of a stalling  economy, a severe lack of public funding for green infrastructure and perhaps an even greater lack of interest and understanding of the value and importance of Place Management. And how creative and locally beneficial  procurement from public and private sectors through social enterprises like ourselves can help to make such a difference.

Some older photos :

Our earliest perennial meadow trial at St Swithuns Church.

Building the Playground at the Wedge Pocket Park

Fairleigh Gateway before Open Space improvements or new Housing

Fretson Green starts to go in along side new housing at Fairleigh

Fretson Green starts to go in along side new housing at Fairleigh

Fretson Green starts to go in along side new housing at Fairleigh

Our first Play Ground at Manor Fields Parks

The landscape at Sheffield Manor lodge site before Emmaus School was built

Environmental Fun Day at Manor Community Centre – now demolished and awaiting site development

Street Party at Norfolk House to consult on the restoration plans

The then Deep Pits Allotment cleared and cultivated for the first time in years

Norfolk House Garden gets cleared

Recycling Raymond – And our very early move into recycling commercially

The Cholera Monument Stones being salvaged from their years in storage

Wybourn Shops prior to refurbishment

Our very first neighbourhood ‘Greenbase’ at Wybourn

Yes, that mural was ours!