It was sad to say goodbye to Sergeant Chris Ellinson when he retired in July to work with the community nearer to his home in Kent. A group of police and park management colleagues, as well as Rhoddy Wood and Jennie Kettlewell from The Friends, met in the Stable Yard to thank him for all he has done to help keep Holland Park safe. Speeches and presentations brought back memories of his 13 years with the RBKC Parks Police, before which he served with the Met. His role involved community interaction, as well as policing, and he was very good at both.
Taking over, as one of two police sergeants in the borough Parks Police, is Arron Haynes, who has been promoted from police constable to take on his new role. Most of you will recognise Arron from his patrols in the park, and we wish him well now that he will be leading one of the two police teams. The other team continues to be led by Sergeant Helen Tilbury. The Parks Police work long hours and seven days a week, so the two teams alternate to provide cover. And of course they cover all the public parks in the borough.
Dave Pickup Joins the idverde Team
It seems no time at all, since idverde won their new contract to maintain the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s parks. The contract, which started in April 2021, includes greater emphasis on horticulture, social value, carbon reduction, biodiversity, community engagement and technology, with agreed standards for performance. It has not been an easy start, with all that the weather has thrown at the plants.
Dave Pickup has joined the idverde team as Contract Manager: no small task. The title sounds like a desk job, but it is not, and he is already walking round the park and getting to know its quirks.
After starting his career in the motor industry, he joined a landscape gardening company and was soon attracted to the subject of grounds maintenance, joining idverde in 2010 as a supervisor in Southwark. Three years later he took up the role of contract manager with idverde in Hammersmith and Fulham, and that is when he first got to know Holland Park. His skills had been noted and he was approached to join the Holland Park team. Dave commented: “I had been in many meetings at Holland Park and was impressed by the diversity. The Dutch Garden looks stunning when on full display, but the Kyoto Garden is probably my favourite place in Holland Park, with its constant high standards and the specific way in which the maintenance is completed. There is an atmosphere and feel to the garden like nowhere else in the park.”
His contract role with idverde Holland Park is wide ranging and includes maintenance of the sports facilities as well as horticulture. Much of the work is behind the scenes, such as ensuring the optimum staffing to deliver the newly-won contract, and getting all the new equipment in place.
On meeting Dave, it was clear he has a grip on priorities for the many projects and tasks ahead, and he and the team have already started on the journey of raising standards to a level expected of a Grade-II-listed park. We are delighted that we now have an even stronger team to keep our park looking stunning.
idverde Strengthens Links with the Local Community
In our spring issue, we mentioned that idverde had created a new post for a Training and Community Manager and will run an enhanced volunteer programme. That post has been taken by Gerry Kelsey, who is not only an experienced horticulturist, but has a reputation for building strong relationships with the community and with friends groups.
Gerry studied at Merrist Wood College of Horticulture, then worked for the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk in the grounds of Arundel Castle, before joining idverde to become head gardener at Dulwich Park. His most recent challenge was as head gardener at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
We are delighted that we now have the benefit of his experience and skills in Holland Park. On meeting him, it was immediately evident that he loves plants of every type and is very enthusiastic about all aspects of what grows in Holland Park. He knows his wild flowers too.
His new role is to raise horticulture standards further and to increase community engagement activities through effective communication and the creation of a Community Nursery for local groups to use, with community training sessions and workshops.
Many of you ask about the opportunity to volunteer, and an important task for Gerry is to create a more focused volunteer programme, so that all work is linked to park strategy. Work in the woodlands will be informed by the Woodland Management Plan currently being developed. Dates for volunteering are currently being scheduled, and anyone interested should contact email@example.com
Gerry commented: ‘Although I have only just arrived, I have been made to feel very welcome. I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of the borough and lifting the standards with the help of volunteers.’
Gerry’s enthusiasm for plants is infectious, and walking round the park with him is a constant discovery of green things hiding in plain sight. It is early days yet and we will keep you updated with opportunities for community activities. These are going to be popular, so book up early when you hear about them.
Monica Castelino Confirmed as Parks Manager
I am delighted to confirm Monica Castelino’s very well deserved appointment as Parks Manager for the borough. Many might not have realised that she was working as interim Parks Manager.
Monica has worked in the borough since 2007 in a variety of roles in the Parks team. During this time she has consistently displayed a calm and practical can-do attitude and a real commitment to the parks. She also works extremely well with all the different stakeholders both inside and outside the parks. Most recently she has brought all those skills and knowledge to bear in the re-procurement of our parks contract. We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated officer.
Councillor Emma Will
idverde Wins Parks Contract
The parks management contract, held by idverde expires on 31 March 2021. The Council was required to put the contract out to tender, and followed a rigorous procurement process that invited and assessed competitive tenders. This twelve-month process was designed to establish which contractor offered the best parks maintenance service, both in terms of quality and value for money. The contract covers 90 parks and green spaces in the borough and is for horticultural work, grass cutting, path sweeping, general cleaning, sports bookings and a number of other services.
The procurement process started with public consultation, to which some of The Friends contributed, and proceeded through three stages, with bidders’ detailed responses to the brief at each stage. The procurement team read some 600+ pages of documents per stage. This team was made up of specialists in relevant disciplines: parks management, law, insurance, sustainability, finance, communications and procurement, as well as a representative of The Friends on behalf of borough park users. Eunomia, specialists in procurement, provided independent oversight to ensure the whole exercise was robust and fair.
Tessa Lee of Eunomia reported that: “The procurement process, using the Competitive Procedure with Negotiation procedure, is one of the most robust and detailed we have run for a grounds maintenance contract. Monica Castelino (RBKC Parks Manager) and the team put in a huge amount of work ensuring the initial documents were well written and the requirements conveyed clearly to bidders. During the process the team answered all clarification questions from bidders quickly and clearly, which was crucial to keeping to the tight timescales of the project. After the initial stages, the project board decided, after careful consideration, to continue to negotiation and the final tender stage. This decision proved very successful as the requirements and priorities of the Authority were clearly outlined to bidders in meetings leading to large improvements in the final tenders. In summary, the whole RBKC team has worked extremely hard the past year, in tough circumstances, to ensure the best solution for the Authority. We have very much enjoyed working with such a dedicated and hardworking team and wish RBKC and the Friends all the best for the new contract.”
Bids were anonymous in the documentation and were scored against 21 criteria. Of all the competitive tenders, idverde had the highest score and have been awarded the contract. This decision was approved by the RBKC Leadership Team on 9 December 2020. It was also agreed that idverde should renew its various leases in connection with the parks, including the lease for the plant nursery in Holland Park.
What happens next? Well, it is not just more of the same. The new contract includes greater emphasis on horticulture, social value, carbon reduction, biodiversity, community engagement and technology. Different performance standards have been set to provide more clarity for all. There will be an additional post for a training and community manager and an enhanced volunteer programme. The new contract starts on 1 April 2021.
Ben Binnell, idverde’s contract director said: ‘We are delighted to have been awarded the Kensington and Chelsea contract. It was the toughest bid that I have been involved with and I look forward to many years of protecting the green assets on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea residents and appropriately improving the biodiversity and maintenance of these.’
Photo by idverde