Green spaces – who’s stepping into the breach?

It’s almost a year since Groundwork launched its Greener Neighbourhoods report and threw down the gauntlet to people to love or lose their local green spaces.

Part of our response to this challenge was the Urban Oasis campaign, developed as the likely scale of public finance cuts became apparent. We predicted that the maintenance of parks and public spaces would suffer as belts were tightened across the public sector.

Twelve months on and the picture has come very sharply into focus. The state continues to retreat from green space management, provoking dismay and anger in equal measure. Who could forget the furore over the mere suggestion of selling off swathes of our nation’s forestry, or the threatened repeal of the 1908 Allotments and Small Holdings Act, which would have removed the obligation of local authorities to provide allotments – real ‘growth areas’ if you will?

As I said at the time, green spaces are important to everyone and any real or perceived threat to their future provokes a passionate outcry. Why does it matter? Because green spaces are more than the sum of their parts, because they are catalysts for communities, cohesion, neighbourhood pride, jobs, nature.

But, with the Eurozone in apparent meltdown, global markets in turmoil and the government sticking to its economic guns, it begs the question: who, exactly, will step into the breach?

Admittedly, there are still some (limited) public funds available, notably from lottery sources, to help communities preserve and improve their local green spaces. Community Spaces, for example, is a £57.5m open grants programme managed by Groundwork UK on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund, and is well into its delivery phase, with around 850 projects approved or completed and more than £42m allocated or spent.

The programme helps community groups to create or improve open spaces so that the quality of life in neighbourhoods across England is enhanced.

It is heartening to note that parts of the private sector are prepared to play a role in these tough economic times.

We recently launched @myurbangreen in partnership with Marks & Spencer, a campaign to help local communities shape the future development, maintenance and management of their local green spaces

Groundwork green space co-ordinators, funded by M&S, will give community groups the tools they need to act on local issues, recruit volunteers and design and deliver activities and events to raise the profile of their work.

@myurbangreen will:

  • Deliver more than 850 community green space activities and events
  • Recruit more than 5,000 volunteers
  • Reach 135,000 people in the wider community
  • Help 300 community groups to improve their ability to support local green space

It builds on the success of Greener Living Spaces – a network of 100 dynamic new or improved green spaces created by Groundwork and M&S at the heart of communities across the country.

Transform Your Patch is an ambitious community-led programme funded by Britvic and PepsiCo UK and created in partnership with Groundwork. The multi-million pound campaign will help to transform the nation’s outdoor spaces, giving communities more access to sport, activities and fun.

Groundwork and Britvic have identified around 165 sites to  be transformed. Simply by buying a participating soft drink, people will be helping to provide viable, safe and easily accessible spaces where communities can socialise, exercise, stay healthy and enjoy a sense of wellbeing.

United Futures, a Groundwork partnership with United Utilities, is an ongoing programme based on joined-up sustainable development at all levels – from grass roots to the boardroom.

Often, United Futures funds new projects in areas being disrupted by United Utilities infrastructure development work. There’s nothing worse than having the roads dug up for vital new sewers – and we help to leave a lasting legacy in the area when the diggers have gone.

These partners are doing more than paying lip service to corporate social responsibility; they are putting their money where it matters.

This year will be a genuinely momentous one for the UK, with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee providing two major focal points. And of course – for fans of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar – the world is due to end on 21 December!

This year also marks Groundwork’s 30th anniversary and I find it striking that many of the issues we were addressing in the 80s – unemployment, recession, youth disaffection – are as pressing today as they were then.

Our work does make a difference and it’s something that anyone can get involved in. As we celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be encouraging sponsors, partners and volunteers to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Big Society in action, if you will.

Making changes to your neighbourhood, being actively involved yourself. How’s that as a starting point for greater things?


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top