Rewarding the ability to inspire

Sheffield Inner Relief Road, Phase 2 is an unlikely name for a planting project that has succeeded in captivating the hearts of the city's commuters.

But since the completion of soft landscaping, incorporating a mix of wildflower meadows and more formal planting along the 1.5km link road, Sheffield City Council has been inundated with messages much like the following: "How beautiful the new wildflower beds are in the ring road ... the planting is inspired", "Improvements in this poorer area of Sheffield make a big difference to the feel of it", "Thank you ... for bringing a smile to my face in the morning on my way in to work".

In many ways, the project, which took the best streetscape award at last Thursday's Horticulture Week Landscape & Amenity Awards celebration, sums up what the judges were looking for across all the categories. Not just technical excellence, good management and carefully honed skills - although these were all basic requirements - but also the ability to inspire. Just imagine if every highway and byway got the Sheffield relief road treatment.

Similarly, projects like the revamping of Leyton Manor Park - once a threatening no-go area - and the restoration of Birkenhead Park, ticked all the right design, technical and quality boxes, and have, in different ways, clear transformational potential within their communities.

And schemes such as Groundwork London's Windmill Park Play Project, voted Most Outstanding Commitment to the Community, and Lancashire County Council's Lancashire Backyard Project, which seeks to encourage by example Lancashire's 160,000 residents of terraced houses to turn their backyards into productive, sustainable and enjoyable gardens, are already transforming lives.

But as well as being packed with inspiring projects, this year's awards also celebrated inspirational service by individuals, open-space management teams and the many outstanding contractors in the sector. A particular highlight here has been the marking of the development of genuine partnerships between contractors and their customers. The partnering award, consequently, was one of the most hotly contested awards this year.

Details of all the winners are published today in our special awards supplement. Be inspired - and see you at next year's awards.

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