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Guest Blog: Helping nature flourish

Cameron Watt, chief executive, Alpha Housing, fills us in on some of the ways Alpha staff, residents and voluteers are doing their bit to help the environment.
wildflowers in raised beds

One of the things I enjoy most about Alpha is the variety of attractive sites our schemes are in across Northern Ireland.

However, historically, our communal grounds have been perhaps been an under-valued asset. Certainly, our grounds maintenance needs to improve. We are in the process of appointing a new grounds maintenance contractor to start this month.

I am determined that all our communal gardens are better maintained. This process has already started.

Recently, Alpha has helped fund garden improvements at Rathmore Manor and commissioned remedial works at several schemes. We are also investing heavily in tree surgery across our estate.

Almost daily the media now has sobering reports on the crisis our planet is facing. Climate change is accelerating, and biodiversity is plummeting. Rather than despair, each of us can do our small bit for nature. That is why we are aiming to manage our estate in a way that better supports nature in all its diversity.

older people using bee bombs on a raised bed

Alpha residents using bee bombs to make their estate more wildlife friendly

Ulster Wildlife have undertaken wildlife surveys at two of our sites, Weir Court in Comber and Lowry Court in south Belfast. They have presented their conclusions to tenants in engaging feedback sessions.

Among the main recommendations are planting more native trees and shrubs; providing habitat boxes for birds and small animals; and reducing grass-cutting on some areas of our sites to make them more nature-friendly. Over the next year, Alpha hopes to implement these and other ideas across our sites. However, we will strive to make any changes in consultation with tenants on each site.

older people walking on a path through woods

Alpha residents enjoying a nature walk

Indeed, we are keen that all tenants have the opportunity to contribute to Alpha’s campaign to support nature across NI. To better understand how tenants might like to get involved, we have a survey in the current edition of our tenants’ magazine, with all returned surveys going into a prize draw for vouchers.