Tanks for having us! Construction workers build Oldham pupils a school garden

WORKERS building a huge pollution-busting storm tank under an Oldham school field found the perfect way to say thanks to pupils and teachers - by turning their dreams for an eco-friendly tranquility garden into reality.

The stunning new sensory garden – complete with grass-roofed pagoda, solar-powered water fountain, water butts and recycling bins - was handed over to The Hathershaw College by United Utilities and its contractors on Monday (July 15).

Named the Peace Garden by pupils, the new area provides a much-needed quiet, safe space at the college, which houses the area’s only specialist hearing resource centre for profoundly deaf students.

It was built by an army of staff, contractors and suppliers while also building a £46m underground stormwater storage tank in another part of the school field.

When finished, United Utilities’ new tank will help will help clean up the River Medlock.

Until United Utilities and its contractors started work, the idea for a tranquillity garden was just an idea in the mind of the college’s assistant principal Ashley Travis.

But when the firm asked the community for ideas to put something back into the local community as a thank you, workers jumped at the chance of creating a legacy for school.

The final design was drafted with the help of some of the school’s 1,056 pupils and also features a special panel featuring all the different languages spoken in the school/ To minimise the impact on pupils’ education, all the heavy work took place during school holidays.

Water firm United Utilities, together with its principal contractor Laing O’Rourke and nine other contract partners donated all the planning, materials and labour for free.

Mr Travis, whose role includes leading on safeguarding at the college, said the new resource would have a great long-term impact for students and staff. 

“The majority of our pupils live in the local area which is made up of predominantly terraced housing.  This means that they have little or no outdoor space to appreciate and to spend time in.  That is why this garden will make such a difference to their emotional wellbeing and their awareness of the environment; two of the most pressing issues we hear about today.

“This garden will add great value to the school as it is a safe, calming and private ‘retreat’ for our students; this is a rare place to find in a busy secondary school and it will be invaluable for our students and staff.  With the links to Healthy Active Lifestyles and Healthy Living the possibilities are endless,” he said.

United Utilities project manager Lucy Barnes said the company’s new 22m deep, 25m diameter stormwater detention tank was the largest of three huge new underground tanks being built across Oldham to help prevent dirty water spilling into the River Medlock during heavy rainfall. The others are on existing United Utilities sites at Snipe Clough and Bardsley.

“Even though we’re building it in a boggy unused area, and when we’ve finished you won’t even be able to see it, the school could not have been more helpful and we wanted to give something back.
“The school desperately needed an area where pupils could take time out from the day-to-day stresses of learning and we worked with them to design this area. Lots of people working on the scheme have done their bit to make it happen.”

United Utilities would like to thank principal contractor Laing O’Rourke who have led the design and construction of the garden with support from key suppliers PP O’Connor, Bethells, Donegans, Joseph Gallagher, Termstall, Grand Engineering, Alphaplus, Suprafilt and Interface.

Karen McDermott of Laing O’Rourke said everyone had enjoyed putting something back and even local supermarkets were donating plants.

“It’s going to look great. One of our suppliers is creating a laser-cut screen which the pupils have designed and contains all the 40 or more languages spoken in the school,” she said.

The garden could also be used a resource for the community, as it is right in front of the Community Sports Centre which is accessed by thousands of local people and sports clubs.

The Hathershaw work on United Utilities’ River Medlock improvement project, which is taking place in several places across Oldham, is due to be completed in early 2020 when the playing field will be fully reinstated.