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City of Trees and Barnfield Park

This year’s Earth Day is 22nd April and we’d like to take the opportunity to share insight into a Funding Plus collaboration between City of Trees, the OCT and Bruntwood.

The OCT has been involved with City of Trees since 2013, supporting everything from small scale urban projects to regional initiatives of national significance. In 2021, an opportunity arose for City of Trees to acquire and develop a new home in Bury – a one-time busy plant nursery, in a park – but the site was partly derelict, inefficiently laid out, and would take a huge amount of funding, expertise and energy to be transformed.

We provided funding for a new Project Manager position but, inexperienced in new site development, both we and City of Trees agreed we needed external guidance. Through Funding Plus, we linked City of Trees to Laura Morris, Director of Business Operations and Transformation at Bruntwood, who, with her colleague Miriam Hasoon, used their Bruntwood Cares hours (time paid for by Bruntwood to release colleagues to work on community projects: 24 hours per colleague, per year), to work in depth with the City of Trees team, to gain consensus about how the site could and should be utilised.

Laura and Miriam introduced City of Trees’ leadership to further Development colleagues within Bruntwood – who helped define the practical requirements for the site – and to suppliers RBA, resulting in significant levels of external pro bono support and the production of graded architectural plan options. In July 2023, City of Trees were successful in securing a Forestry Commission grant to establish the first phase of the site: a tree nursery. With works now underway, the site will eventually become City of Trees’ flagship centre. It will also incorporate a tree lab, classrooms and office space, but will also be designed to be multifunctional to adapt to future needs. The tree nursery will be operational in some capacity from autumn 2024.

Being able to apply specific professional expertise to this community project was a refreshing, rewarding and enjoyable experience for the Bruntwood team. As well as this, we at the OCT benefited from the assurance that comes when Bruntwood supports development projects. We’ve seen relationships develop between City of Trees and Bruntwood – as well as with the specialist organisation RBA – and know that not only do these connections add value to the funding we can provide, but they contribute to onward sustainability within our sector by sparking new conversations and relationships.