The first three benefactors of a scheme to help fund community groups and regional organisations to better connect people to nature have been unveiled.
Kings Rise Academy in Kingstanding, Old Hall People’s Partnership in Walsall and Sustainable Life in Birmingham have each secured funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Community Green Grants scheme.
The scheme, launched in January 2022, looks to fund projects that increase people’s access to nature, especially in deprived communities, by improving green spaces or enhancing the local environment in other ways, such as planting trees.
Work underway at Sustainable Life, Access to Ten Acres in Birmingham.
Each of these recipients were successful in applying under the small grant, meaning they will receive between £3,000 and £25,000 towards their goal.
The largest of the three grants was awarded to Sustainable Life, who received just over £16,000 to clear 1.6 acres of brambles at the Ten Acre site in Stirchley to make it more accessible to the public and to maintain habitats for local plants and wildlife.
Speaking on the funding, Stephanie Bale, treasurer at Sustainable Life, said: "Ten Acres is a fantastic and underused park right in the heart of the city, and with this funding, our team of volunteers will ensure it continues to be developed into the beautiful and biodiverse woodland it is capable of being.
“By increasing access to the site and improving its conservation status, we will ensure its legacy for decades to come."
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and chair of the WMCA, said “The community green grants scheme allows local groups and regional organisations to enhance green spaces across the West Midlands and give residents a chance to enjoy the benefits of nature right on their doorstep.
“I’m thrilled to see these projects start to come to life, with each one bringing exciting plans to increase the biodiversity and tackle green deprivation within our region, as well as making spaces much more visually attractive to residents and visitors.”
WMCA is soon to release details of the first recipient of a large grant of between £25,000 - £100,000, aimed at organisations with significant sustainable projects across the West Midlands.
In total, the WMCA has set aside £725,000 for the Community Green Grants for community groups, charities, community interest companies and environmental organisations that can show how their planned activities will have a positive impact on the environment.
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 Foundation, said: “This is an exciting time for the first groups to be awarded through the Community Green Grants, each project benefitting the local communities as well as the environment. It’s a wonderful opportunity to tackle green deprivation across the West Midlands which is an important aim for the Foundation as we work towards improving our sustainability.”
Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for environment and energy and leader of Solihull Council, added: “When we went into lockdown in 2020, I think we all quickly came to understand how incredibly important nature and the outdoors are for our wellbeing.
“It’s wonderful that this funding will allow residents to access and enjoy even more of the natural beauty the region has to offer while positively impacting the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife.”
If you wish to learn more about community green grants and ways to increase biodiversity as part of your project, WMCA are hosting a series of webinars each month to help residents learn more about the scheme.