Offenders working in the community have transformed overgrown land, making it accessible for the disabled and preserving native English trees.
The work at Hartburn Lodge, Stockton, has seen a wheelchair-friendly footpath laid through woodland to a heritage orchard that features trees native to the North-East.
Hartburn Lodge provides respite care and short breaks for disabled children and, thanks to the work, the youngsters have been able to take part in harvesting the apples this year which go to local foodbanks .
The work was carried out by offenders as an alternative to jail. It was overseen by the Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company.
The project follows on from ongoing work to open up nearby woodland and overgrown land to the public, including the building of footpaths and wooden bridges.
The scheme was suggested by the public to Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, who works in partnership with the probation service.
Deputy Probation Manager Gordon Wooding said: “This is tough, physically demanding work of up to 300 hours. It has created something of real value and is also experience that offenders can use to help find future employment.”
Tackling re-offending is one of the five priorities of the PCC’s police and crime plan and Mr Coppinger has visited the site to view progress and to talk to those involved.
He said: “I’m a supporter of restorative justice. An unpaid work requirement can meet the sentencing purposes of punishment and reparation and deliver projects of value to local communities.
“Projects also can provide an opportunity for offenders to develop life and vocational skills that reduce the risk of reoffending.”
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ann McCoy, said: “The orchard is a wonderful part of the grounds at Hartburn Lodge but unfortunately until now it was not possible for children who use wheelchairs to benefit from it.
“It is great that the orchard is now wheelchair accessible as it means all of the children who come here can enjoy it.
“We’re also really pleased that the probation service were able to harvest this year’s crop of apples so they could be distributed to foodbanks in Stockton and Billingham.”
Anyone who thinks their area would benefit from a clean-up of graffiti, an unsightly area suffering from an excess of litter and rubbish, or an overgrown footpath or bridal way which is in need of attention can put their proposal forward by visiting the link below.
Posted on Monday 28th November 2016