Grants are being offered to community groups and regional organisations to help them connect people to nature, thanks to new funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The grants will 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.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, launched the fund at an event hosted by the Canal & River Trust, which has been working with local groups such as the Community Connect Foundation to make the canalside in Smethwick more attractive to residents and visitors.
The Mayor planted a tree near the New Pump House, just off Brasshouse Lane to mark 2022 as a year of community tree planting in the West Midlands and along the canals. He also met five volunteers who have been taking part in the Trust’s Plastics Challenge Campaign to remove litter and plastic along the towpath and the water, as well as helping to plant spring bulbs. Mr Street said:
“I was thrilled to join the Canal & River Trust and particularly enjoyed planting an apple tree along the canal. It is great news that we’re offering Community Green Grants to local community groups and regional organisations who are involved in environmental projects.
"We’re keen to see more people enjoy the benefits of nature on their doorstep – with all the benefits it brings for our physical and mental wellbeing. I would encourage as many groups as possible to get involved, take advantage of our cash, and get their funding applications in.”
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.
There will be two levels of funding available: small grants of £3,000-£25,000 and large grants of £25,000-£100,000. Priority will be given to projects in communities where there is green deprivation.
Small projects could include:
- Activities run at community gardens, allotments or parks, such as tree planting, gardening, growing fruit and vegetables
- Turning unused viable land into pocket parks
- Setting up nature playgroups for children and families with no regular access to green space.
Larger scale projects could include:
- Developing green corridors linking parks, community gardens and/or other green spaces
- Developing new community green spaces that increase local access
- Creative plans that significantly improve the biodiversity of the area and promote behavioural change on accessing green spaces.
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, added:
“This is a fantastic opportunity for local groups to work with and enjoy green spaces across the region. If several lockdowns have taught us anything, it’s that the environment is so important to our physical and mental health.
"We’re excited to support the delivery of a programme that benefits the communities we care about as well as supporting our natural environment.”
For further information on WMCA Community Green Grants and to apply, visit wmca.org.uk/communitygreengrants.