Ahead of World Environment Day, the contribution of communities across the West Midlands to improving the natural environment and tackling the climate emergency is being celebrated.
The West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Community Green Grants fund is helping to restore waterways, plant trees, create ponds, wildflower meadows and urban parks, as well as to grow fruit and vegetables.
Seventeen locally led projects have now shared grants totalling almost £500,000, providing new or improved access to green space for the more than 200,000 residents who live within a 15-minute walk of these sites - one of the key aims of the region’s Natural Environment Plan.
One year on from the first grants being awarded, representatives from community groups have been thanked for their contribution by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, and Councillor Ian Courts, the WMCA’s portfolio holder for environment and energy, and leader of Solihull Council, at an event at The Workspace in Wolverhampton.
The Mayor said: “The Community Green Grants scheme is making a very real and practical difference at the local level - empowering people to bring about tangible improvements to their neighbourhoods.
“Whether it’s creating wildflower meadows, planting trees or encouraging children to engage with nature, it’s brilliant to see how the Green Grants we’ve been able to award are driving change for the better in communities right across our region. Together, we’re helping to improve and preserve our natural environment. It’s great to be able to say thank you to all those local heroes doing such fantastic work.”
The latest recipient of a Community Green Grant from the WMCA is Witton Lodge Community Association in Birmingham. It has been awarded £25,000 to create an accessible, biodiverse sensory garden, with nature trails, natural play areas and growing and meeting places for traditionally marginalised groups at the Witton Lakes Eco Hub.
Afzal Hussain, chief officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, said: “We’re delighted to be awarded a Community Green Grant by the WMCA.
“It will make a huge difference by helping us to transform an underused area into a rich, biodiverse sensory garden within the grounds of the Witton Lakes Eco Hub. Equally important is that it will help us to improve accessibility and increase engagement with traditionally marginalised groups.”
Cllr Courts added: “The Community Green Grants scheme has successfully given local organisations the opportunities and resources to improve their local environment and enjoy their green spaces. It’s good to see every borough benefiting from the scheme and we’re looking forward to sharing further announcements later this summer.”
The WMCA Community Green Grants fund was established as part of the Natural Environment Plan, which sets out the actions the WMCA and its partners will take to enhance the region's biodiversity, protect endangered species, and improve access to green spaces and waterways for residents. Applications can still be made for small grants of between £3,000 and £25,000 or large grants of up to £100,000 with priority given to projects in communities where there is green deprivation.
The WMCA is working in partnership with the Heart of England Community Foundation, which is managing the online portal and supporting the application and appraisal process.
A full list of projects that have received funding from the scheme since the first grants were handed out in May 2022 are:
- Rise Academy in Kingstanding - £8,494 to develop a school garden that is open to the wider community.
- Sustainable Life in Stirchley - £16,050 to clear 1.6 acres of brambles on the Ten Acre site to make it accessible to the public and to restore a hidden orchard.
- Kingstanding Regeneration Trust - £19,344 to clear a 70 sqm overgrown cottage garden at Brookvale Park and teach young people green skills.
- Marsh Hill Allotments, Stockland Green - £7,200 to install a wildlife pond and wildflower meadow to be used by schools and community groups.
- Northfield Stroke Club - £11,170 to transform the unused green space around the Reaside Community Centre into a community garden with wildflowers, ponds, fruit and vegetable growing, bird boxes and other habitats.
- Witton Lodge Community Association - £25,000 to transform underused areas at the Witton Lakes Eco Hub into an accessible, biodiverse sensory garden that includes creating nature trails, natural play areas, growing and meeting places for traditionally marginalised groups.
- Feeding Coventry - £25,000 to create accessible urban green spaces in Foleshill, Herbert Art Gallery, and Kairos Women’s Centre.
- St Catherine's Church Community Garden - £10,099 towards the cost of transforming a plot of unused land at the rear of the church into an outdoor community green space.
- Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust - £99,990 to restore 2kms of the River Stour in Cradley Heath and Lye, 3.5 hectares of ancient woodland, create one hectare of species rich grassland and the planting of 2,000 trees and shrubs.
- EKHO Collective CIC, Hawbush Community Gardens, Dudley - £21,130 to transform two unused allotment plots into a therapeutic sensory garden, with improvements to the woodland and the creation of a wildlife pond.
- DIYYA, Lye - £25,000 to take on a second allotment to help more women and families grow their own produce and to expand its weekly gardening club.
- Spectra Arts CIC, Sandwell - £20,189 to create a biodiverse pocket park in the grounds of Sandwell Hospital, offering green space as a respite staff, patients, visitors, and the local community.
- The Dorothy Parkes Centre, Bearwood Road Allotments, Smethwick - £23,977 to take on a second allotment to grow fruit and vegetables to help local people experiencing food poverty and provide produce to foodbanks.
- Old Hall People’s Partnership, Bentley - £18,650 to create a pocket park with wildflower areas, wildlife shelters, and raised beds to grow herbs and vegetables.
- Caldmore Community Garden - £17,692 to create a boggy area, new building, installing bat boxes, and run weekly ‘garden Saturdays’ for local families.
- The Froglife Trust, Reedswood Park - £68,718 to restore two derelict ponds and create two new ones to increase the amphibian population in the area, and establish two wildlife corridors running from central to west Walsall.
- All Saints Action Network, Wolverhampton - £20,206 to turn an unused car park into a family playground with planting, urban greening and a wildlife pond where activities are being held, and improvements to the existing community garden.
World Environment Day takes places on June 5.