Province of North Brabant and St Helens exchange experiences - Tuesday, March 10, 2015
categorieën: PH St.Helens

From 5 to 7 November 2014, four representatives from LandStad De Baronie, Brabantse Kempen and the Boven-Dommelgebied took part in a field trip to St Helens in the United Kingdom. The trip, which was led by Rob Maessen, was part of the INTERREG project PURE Hubs, in which the Province of North Brabant and St Helens Council are valuable partners.

The goal of this visit was to exchange experiences and share knowledge, also with a view to providing inspiration for future transnational projects. It was certainly a fruitful trip, because in St Helens, participants were able to take part in a comprehensive exchange of ideas with representatives from the wide range of public and private organisations who are collaborating on the project: St Helens Council, Merseyside Forest, Groundwork and Liverpool University.

St Helens is located close to Liverpool and Manchester. In this area, work has been underway for years on the creation of Bold Forest Park, which is part of the wider Mersey Forest. In the early nineties, the area was incorporated into a long-term programme for large-scale tree planting. Over the past few years, no fewer than eight million trees have been planted, which comes down to five trees for each resident of the area. The former industrial and mine landscape has also undergone a striking metamorphosis.

The idea is for this green space to make a growing contribution to the prosperity and well-being of residents. This involves attracting investment and new activities, creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs, and focusing on the environment, tourism and sustainable development. In St Helens, the project has included collaborating with Groundwork, an organisation that for over 30 years has been helping to find practical solutions to the big questions of our time. Groundwork bases its work on three principles: creating better places, improving people’s prospects, and promoting greener living and working.

Another key question here is how the rural environment can respond to demand from the city. Linking personal networks that all too often operate in isolation is the key challenge here for the development of both the city and the countryside.

Members of the group had their first follow-up discussion on 2 December 2014, under the motto “Sustainable area development is not something you do for people, but along with them”. On 3 February 2015, the Staatsbosbeheer (State Forestry Commission) also invited member of the group to attend a meeting at their headquarters in Driebergen.