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Airport regenerates site to create Millennium Wood

Belfast International Airport has transformed part of its site into a series of new woodland trails to boost staff wellbeing, support employment opportunities and reinvigorate the local area.

The seven-acre area now known as ‘Millennium Wood’ has been created in partnership over the last three years with the Turnaround Project through their social enterprise Outwork.

The Turnaround Project helps people who are serving sentences improve their futures through a transitional employment approach, which supports them as they move out of the justice system and towards full-time employment.

Outwork provides landscaping and grounds maintenance services and encourages local businesses and the wider community to support people on this journey. The team have created a number of accessible trails and cleared an open space that staff can use to exercise and relax, surrounded by trees, plants and other wildlife.

Kevin Napier, Compliance Manager from Belfast International Airport commented: “Twenty years ago we planted over 2,000 trees to mark the Millennium with local school children. Over time, the land became extremely dense and inaccessible.

“Outwork have developed a series of routes, which allow staff to switch off from the pressure of work and eventually we hope the general public will spend time here too before they travel on their journeys from the airport. We have invested around £30k in the area and believe that everyone will soon reap the benefits of these trails.

“We place a lot of emphasis on CSR initiatives and enhancing the local environment. It was key that we found the right team who were able to transform this area. We have been able to give something back to the local environment as well as offer meaningful career opportunities to those involved with The Turnaround Project.”

Further plans are afoot for Millennium Wood as Outwork will continue to cultivate the space in the coming months. Picnic tables and running routes will be developed so people can take advantage of the space all year round.

Richard Good, Director at The Turnaround Project adds: “We were delighted to be appointed by the airport on this initiative and have formed a real partnership. The guys who have worked on the new trails have seen the area transform into a place where we see a real future for the woods and the wider public.

“Our Outwork social enterprise gives people a real opportunity to gain experience, training and knowledge and they see that their work can make a real difference and help create an inclusive community. Ultimately our vision is all about giving people skills, confidence and a new sense of identity and purpose as we support them into conventional employment.”