L&Q resident wins National Sustainability Award

Published on 03/07/2023

Dave Bedford won in the resident contribution to sustainable living category at the Unlock Net Zero awards on Tuesday 27 June.

Dave is co-founder and leader of the Lower Regent’s Coalition, a community-led volunteer group that runs clean-up and improvement events across the stretch of the Regent’s Canal from Limehouse Basin to Mile End Road and beyond. Formed in 2013, the coalition has been instrumental in the transformation of this previously unloved stretch of canal into a thriving urban oasis and haven for nature.

From donning and planting bulbs to pulling trollies filled with bags of rubbish, Dave’s band of volunteers have removed over 7,000 bags and 10 tonnes of rubbish from in and around the canal, created more than 400m2 of wildflower meadows with over 20 varieties of plants, and installed 700m2 of floating ecosystems and aquatic planting.

The new and improved biodiverse habitat has brought more wildlife to the canal, offering shelter and spawning areas for fish and invertebrates under the floating ecosystems and nesting areas for coots, moorhens, geese, ducks, herons, kingfishers and swans.

When the Canal+ River Trust drained 900m of the canal in 2016, Dave lobbied for permission to run a clean-up event in the drained canal to remove the plastic inside, and the Lower Regent Coalition’s volunteer base went from 100 to 900 in a matter of days. Almost eight tonnes of rubbish were removed from the area, alongside an unexploded WW2 grenade, five guns, and several swords.

Dave was nominated by his social landlord, L&Q. He is a member of the housing associations’ Resident Services Board (RSB), a formal committee of our group board that is comprised of people who make their home with us. The RSB are equal peers of other group board members and skilled partners with the authority to make an impact.

When the LRC’s storage facility provider was no longer able to hold their equipment, L&Q supported Dave to apply for a Travis Perkins Community Heritage Grant worth £4,000 to build a new shed, which is also being used by the wider community.

Dave said:

“I’m delighted to win this prestigious award. As a group, we have lots to be thankful for in getting us to this point – most especially all the incredible volunteers that have got stuck in at our events large and small. Our volunteers motivate us to keep going and doing what we do.

I’m also grateful to L&Q for helping us find a new home for our equipment. Without the grant, we wouldn’t have been able to continue our work.”

Sophie Leedham, Head of Resident Involvement at L&Q, said:

“Dave is a great example of an extraordinary everyday person going above and beyond for his community and the environment.

Not only is the Lower Regent’s Canal area much more attractive, with growing numbers of people using the towpath, but his work to set up the coalition has also contributed to considerable carbon reduction– around 10kg over the last five years.

This is such a powerful example of a local person doing their bit to tackle the climate crisis, whilst also inspiring others to do the same.”

The future of the coalition is set to be even greener, as Dave plans to run educational events for local schools, and cultural and social gatherings for community members to celebrate the heritage of the area.

He is also applying for the coalition to become a registered charity and has set his sights on attracting even more wildlife to the canal, including the endangered water vole.

The awards ceremony took place on Tuesday 27 June 2023 at the Housing 2023 conference held in Manchester.