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Environment projects share £300,000 of new funding

Published: Wednesday 13 Mar 2024

Eight locally led projects have shared almost £300,000 in the first round of grants from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) £1 million Community Environment Fund.

They include a breeding programme to boost ecologically important crayfish numbers, training up environment champions in sports clubs and across communities, and helping local people to repair rather than throw away their clothes.

The fund was set up with Commonwealth Games legacy money to significantly widen the scope of funding the WMCA is making available for ‘green’ projects.

These grants mean the WMCA has now provided almost £1 million to support the work of grassroots environment projects right across the region.

Community Environment Fund grants have been awarded to the following organisations:

  • Saathi House, Aston, – £20,125 to train 90 local women as environment champions to promote sustainable living practices, such as waste reduction, efficient cooking, recycling, and energy conservation, within their families and communities.
  • Make Good Arts, Sandwell – £13,320 to grow its Repair and Share project by providing sewing machines and other resources in even more community venues to help local people to repair, share and remake clothing, saving them money and diverting hundreds of items of clothing away from landfill.
  • Caldmore Village Festival, Walsall – £24,995 to evolve Caldmore Community Garden into a nature, environment and climate change education centre, hosting gardening, conservation, climate change, and environmental sustainability workshops, events and other activities to help local people to reduce their own waste, carbon emissions and energy bills by becoming more energy efficient.
  • Birmingham County Football Association - £25,000 to train up 10 football climate champions and put 500 football club volunteers through Carbon Literacy for Grassroots Football training to help them reduce waste and lower their energy usage and bills.
  • Buglife, The Midlands Crayfish Partnership (Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell Wolverhampton) - £59,430 to map existing native and non-native crayfish populations, coordinate conservation efforts, and work with the Sealife Centre in Birmingham on a breeding programme to boost declining numbers of native species. The project will also include hosting walks, talks, workshops and other family activities to raise awareness of how crayfish help to maintain healthy watercourses and as a food source for fish, birds and mammals.
  • Carriers of Hope, Coventry - £25,000 to continue its What Comes Around, Goes Around project by providing hundreds more people experiencing poverty, primarily asylum seekers, refugees and Roma people from Eastern Europe, with essential items such as baby equipment, furniture, electrical items, bikes and toys, reusing unwanted items that would otherwise be destined for landfill.
  • Wildside Activity Centre, Wolverhampton - £24,400 to run more hands-on activities in its unique natural learning environment to teach school-age children about the natural world, the importance of conservation and environmental issues, and become ambassadors for positive environmental change.
  • ReBuild Site CIC / All Saints Action Network, Wolverhampton - £100,000 to set up the region’s first reuse hub to take surplus materials from construction sites, builders' merchants, wholesalers and others in the supply chain to sell them on to local small traders, DIYers, gardeners and crafters at a substantially discounted cost, diverting it away from landfill.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, with Richard Lindsay, sustainability and business insights manager, and Kevin Shoemake, chief executive, at Birmingham County FA which has been given £25,000 for its Save Today, Play Tomorrow Carbon Literacy for Grassroots Football project.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, with Richard Lindsay, sustainability and business insights manager, and Kevin Shoemake, chief executive, at Birmingham County FA which has been given £25,000 for its Save Today, Play Tomorrow Carbon Literacy for Grassroots Football project.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “We must all take responsibility to protect and improve our wonderful and valuable natural environment, and that’s why we’re putting even more money into grassroots projects that will collectively make a difference to so many people’s lives.

“These are the first grants we’re announcing from the new Community Environment Fund and they will pay for a wide variety of projects such as education programmes, a clothing repair scheme, and work to protect important species that have a valuable but largely hidden role in our natural ecosystems.

“We’ve seen the positive impact our successful green grants have already had in opening up access to nature for more than 200,000 residents, so it’s really good news that thanks to Commonwealth Games legacy funding we can now do more. It will also help us 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 see the positive environmental benefits they bring in the months and years ahead.”

The WMCA’s environment funding initially focussed on providing new or improved access to green space for residents within a 15-minute walk of where they live - one of the key aims of the region’s Natural Environment Plan.

Thanks to the Commonwealth Games legacy-funded Community Environment Fund, this has now been extended to also include projects that reduce waste and help make communities more resilient and prepared for the impacts of climate change.

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

Community groups and regional organisations can still bid for small grants of up to £25,000 and large grants of up to £100,000.

Cllr John Cotton, the WMCA’s portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The £1 million Community Environment Fund is empowering local people to make a positive and long-term difference to their communities by harnesses the success of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“Our region faces a range of challenges that will require us to adapt to create a sustainable future for ourselves and these fantastic projects receiving funding are going to make a difference. The good news is that there is still money available to support even more local projects run by local people right across the region.”

Tina Costello, chief executive at the Heart of England Community Foundation, said: “Through the Community Environment Fund, local projects are creating greener and kinder communities. The fund is enabling communities to protect and nurture their local environment. I’m looking forward to seeing how the projects come to life that support our mission to create a fairer, happier and healthier Midlands for us all.”

Find out how to apply on the WMCA website.

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