When idverde legacy company Quadron Services tendered for the grounds maintenance contract at Teignbridge District Council in 2010, the four glasshouses at Newton Abbot’s Cross Park Nursery were in a state of disuse and in need of much repair. However, the Council and Quadron saw the potential of the site as a resource for the local community and, following consultation with the Council, capital improvements began to renovate the first of the glasshouses and transform it into a community allotment under glass.

The works were project managed by our Development Manager, Andrew Kauffman, who enlisted support from the Devon and Cornwall Probation Services, local businesses and a nearby college to assist with the labour and provision of materials for the project.

Local timber merchants, Brunel Timber, supplied the timber for the 40 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant raised beds, which were constructed by our landscape partners, Agricultural and Estate Services.
Once the beds were constructed, teams from the Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust were invited to assist the project as part of their attendees’ community payback. The team worked extremely hard to fill the beds with over 90 tons of top soil and 10 tons of soil improver. The team also did a fantastic job in fitting the tops to the cold frames around the glasshouses, which were renovated with funding from Quadron, and assistance from Brunel Timber and students from the South Devon College Carpentry Team.

Geraldine Ford, Community Payback Manager for the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company, commented: “We are very pleased to be working with on this project which will benefit communities and give our services users real work experience.”

The final finishing touch to the glasshouse was to install thermal screening, which was supplied and fitted by C Selman Horticultural Glazers, to help control light and heat during periods of high temperature.

The first glasshouse was completed and opened for business to Teignbridge residents to come and ‘grow their own’ in Spring 2013. With Teignbridge District Council and Quadron both promoting the new allotment under glass to local residents, there was soon a good take-up of plot-holders, including schools and groups supporting the disabled, who signed up to rent one or more plots on an annual basis.

One of the new plot-holders commented: “It was great to hear about the allotments under glass. We have been able to grow a range of vegetables and salads throughout the year, which has reduced our shopping bills, while keeping my husband and me active.”

Another keen supporter of the scheme has been local businessman, Cliff Hyslop, also known as ‘the Devon Chilli Man’. After a successful year renting several plots in the first glasshouse to grow chillies to supply his catering company, the Devon Chilli Man needed more space to accommodate his expanding business. In 2014, Mr Hyslop signed an agreement to rent the whole of the newly completed second glasshouse. In 2014 he grew over 600 chilli plants in the 36 metre glasshouse, and is now installing an Auto-pot irrigation system to ensure the plants continue to thrive.

The Devon Chilli Man’s business has gone from strength to strength since utilising the glasshouse. In 2015 he was awarded second place in the Best UK Professional Chilli Grower category at the Clifton Chilli Club Best UK Chilli Awards. In 2016, he will be working on growing and harvesting the world’s hottest chilli, ‘Carolina Reaper’, in the glasshouse.

The Devon Chilli Man, Cliff Hyslop, says: “Without the faith and support of Quadron Services and Teignbridge District Council and the trust of Jason from Autopots, none of this would have been possible, and I will always be grateful to them for the chance to live my Chilli dream!”

idverde Corporate Development Manager, Andrew Kauffman, has been involved with the allotments under glass project since his inception. He says: “From four uninhabitable glasshouses to a thriving community asset and local business enterprise, the Cross Park Nursery Allotments under glass gives a live example of how local authority, contractor and community working together can create sustainable green communities.

“It has been a pleasure to be part of this project as it evolved from the seed of an idea to a growing enterprise.”