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22-03-24 |

Network Plus develop allotment and play area for school in Skelmersdale

Last year our first Graduate Sustainability Challenge launched, with fantastic ideas spanning from solar and sensor lighting, to reducing costs through a ‘No Dig Technology’. The 5 groups came forward with their impressive ideas, presenting to a panel of judges from our senior leadership and United Utilities Head of Long-Term Strategy, Gordon Rogers. 

The allotment idea was developed as part of this challenge, with the teammates keeping up the gusto and pushing it forward to fruition in 2024. 

The Allotment Project Graduate Team: Abi Robinson and Emma Hesketh 

Our Learning & Development Advisor, Nic Owen, had a connection to St Richard’s Primary School in Skelmersdale, which happened to be within our working patch with United Utilities, Cadent Gas and Electricity North West. It seemed the perfect opportunity to give back to the community we work in. 

Abi Robinson is our HR Advisor, who led this project from the challenge stage to action! Eve Leary, our Senior HR Advisor who handles HR for our United Utilities contract became Project Lead, keeping the school and volunteers engaged and informed throughout. 

Eve and Abi were joined by Nic Owen and Daryll Smith, Operations Manager for our contract with United Utilities. Together they brought this project to life in a matter of weeks! With the expertise and creativity from various colleagues around the business. 

Eve Leary and Abi Robison

With feedback from the school of what was needed, we got to work. Our CAD Designer from our traffic management business, Jordan Jones, created a rough CAD drawing of the site, which helped us to visualise the project for the school. 

One of the issues raised was a decaying tree on the chosen site. Andy Whitworth and our in-house team of Arborists helped to cut down the tree and repurpose it into seating areas for the children, leaving the wood chippings scattered across the ground as a soft grounding for the area.  

Our team over in Fleet generously donated old tyres for the children to use as planters as well. Our Procurement Team, led by Ashley Houghton, sourced mini–Network Plus hi-vis jackets for the children to wear when they’re “building” outside. 

On 24th January the project started, with our operational team of Craig Jones, Aaron Jones and Nathan Spence who did a brilliant job levelling the ground, building planters, a covered seating area and even an insect hotel! Without their creativity, professionalism and craftmanship, it would not have been such a success. 

Our Grab Team of Gary McGlue and Phil Jones assisted with the removal of surplus spoil and supplied concrete. Dream work makes the team work! 

A Year 6 student from the school named Hazel won the competition for naming the allotment as ‘Dig N Grow’ and followed it up with an amazing drawing of fruit and veg, which is now displayed on the fence surrounding the area for signage. 

Pictured above: Hazel next to her ‘Dig ‘n’ Grow’ sign receiving her prize from Colin Smith, Head of Operations for Network Plus. 

“It was great to see the smile on the children’s faces now they have a great environment to play and plant!” – Colin Smith, Head of Operations

The younger classes have enjoyed watching the teams and the diggers at work. As a business born and raised in the North West, being able to give back to the communities we work in, is very special for us. 

Thank you to everyone who made this project possible.  

Debbie Wenham, St Richard’s Catholic Primary School: 

“We would like to express our profound gratitude for your incredibly generous donation. Your collective efforts have provided our students with a valuable learning environment that fosters a deeper connection to nature and promotes sustainability. This allotment will serve as a platform for hands-on education and experiential learning.” 

Daryll Smith, Project Co-ordinator and Operations Manager: 

“It’s been a pleasure delivering this project, funded by Network Plus and bringing community spirit to an area where we have several contracts; United Utilities, Cadent Gas and Electricity North West. It supports the customers in their areas and gives back to the communities we work in. Big shout out to Craig Jones for his craft work building the garden. The school are over the moon with it!” 

Shown above: Hazel cutting the ribbon to open the area for the school. We just missed the action shot, but you get the gist! The allotment is officially open just in time for Spring.

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