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Another £1m to revive nature and boost climate resilience

Published: Wednesday 25 Oct 2023

Communities can bid for a share of a new £1 million fund set up to support green schemes that connect local people to nature and bolster the region’s resilience to climate change.

The Community Environment Fund - part of the Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund - significantly widens the scope of funding the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is making available for environmental projects.

The money will pay for more locally led schemes that improve access to nature and is now being extended to include projects that reduce waste and help make communities more resilient and prepared for the impacts of climate change.

Community groups and regional organisations will be able to bid for small grants of up to £25,000 and large grants of up to £100,000 from Friday, 27 October.

This additional funding the WMCA is making available for environment projects comes as it retained its position as one of the country’s most ambitious and forward-thinking regions on tackling climate change.

To mark the launch of the Community Environment Fund, the WMCA will be giving out trees for free at the Midlands Arts Centre at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham on Friday, 27 October, between 1pm and 4pm. Just turn up to claim a free tree and find out how to register it on the West Midlands Virtual Forest.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “It is truly inspiring to see the depth of commitment shown by local people in communities right across our region who share my determination to protect and improve our wonderful and valuable natural environment.

“This vital work - often done on a voluntary basis - enables people to spend time in nature to the benefit of our collective health and wellbeing at the same time as helping us to tackle the climate emergency.

“This new Commonwealth Games legacy funding - in addition to money already made available through our successful Community Green Grants programme - means we can plant more trees, revive more rivers, enhance access to green space, restore wildlife habitats, develop the circular economy and raise awareness about the importance of nature more generally.

“I look forward to visiting local beneficiaries of this new funding and cannot wait to see lives changed for the better as a result in the months and years ahead.”

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Last year, Birmingham showcased itself to the world with a record-breaking Commonwealth Games.

“Millions of pounds were pumped into the local economy as a result, and we continue to invest in the region with a further £70 million underspend boosting jobs and skills in the West Midlands.

“This innovative £1 million Community Environment Fund will provide further benefits to local people. I encourage any interested organisations to submit an application to receive a share of this investment.”

Two ladies standing in a pocket part outside the main entrance of the hospital

A pocket park has been created by Spectra Arts CIC for patients, staff and visitors at Sandwell Hospital to enjoy is among the environment projects already supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, with a £20,000 grant. Photo Kyle Simms.

The WMCA has already supported 20 locally led nature projects through the Community Green Grants programme with more than £500,000 of funding - this has opened up access to nature for over 200,000 local people, particularly in areas of green deprivation.

They include a pocket garden established in the grounds of Sandwell Hospital as part of the Buzz Stop project led by Spectra Arts CIC.

The garden, supported with £20,000 from the WMCA, has been visited 4,500 times by staff, patients, visitors and local people since opening this summer, creating new wildlife habitats and providing a place to spend time in nature on breaks, in between appointments or while visiting friends and relatives. Bedside nature workshops have also been held as part of the project.

Friends of Pitts Wood in Quinton, Birmingham, are using a £25,000 grant from the WMCA to work with Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust to restore water habitats, create new wildlife habitats, and improve access with new pathways, boardwalks, steps and bridges within the unique and nationally significant ancient urban woodland.

Cllr John Cotton, the WMCA’s portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “It’s great news that, through this new Environment Fund, we are able to support even more projects that can harness the success of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games to positively impact so many lives. Whether it’s opening up access to more green and blue spaces, reducing waste and taking action to adapt to climate change.”

To enable as many people as possible to benefit from the grants, the WMCA is working in partnership with regional charity Heart of England Community Foundation, which will be managing the online portal and supporting the application and appraisal process.

Tina Costello, chief executive of the Heart of England Community Foundation, said: “We are thrilled to see even more funding flow to community organisations and change makers across the region. We have already seen the impact local projects can play in helping to support biodiversity and increase environmental responsibility - whether tackling issues directly through social action, or supporting communities through education, advocacy and campaigns.

“The Community Foundation is proud to be working alongside the WMCA to deliver this new fund, which is a testament to our recent work through the Green Grants Scheme. We remain committed to increasing the level of funding available for local communities to tackle the issues that matter to them. We hope that this new £1million fund will provide a continued legacy of climate action in the Midlands, because when we all work together for the climate, we all benefit.”

The effective organisation and delivery of last summer’s Games meant the event came in under budget.

Following discussions with the Mayor and the WMCA, the UK Government agreed to invest the £70 million underspend back into the region to enhance the legacy of the Games and ensure the benefits continue their positive impact for years to come.

Apply to the WMCA’s Community Environment Fund on the WMCA website.

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