A project to improve underused open spaces in Worthing and Adur has received almost £660,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.
The Growing Communities programme will work with residents in the Northbrook area of Worthing and Eastbrook in Fishersgate.
We believe strongly in empowering people to play an active role in our communities to help them and their local areas to thrive.Councillor David Simmons
It will focus on underused open spaces, working with the community to understand their needs and support them to transform the spaces for people to enjoy.
Activities will be decided by the communities themselves, but could include setting up mini allotments, courses and workshops on wildlife or a Green Gym where volunteers get exercise by planting trees or creating ponds.
The project is the result of a partnership between Adur and Worthing Councils and The Conservation Volunteers charity.
Councillor Val Turner, Worthing’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said she was ‘delighted’ to receive the funding.
“This will help us to achieve our vision for greater community involvement in our parks and open spaces which, in turn, will have a positive impact on health and wellbeing,” she said.
Councillor David Simmons, Adur’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “We believe strongly in empowering people to play an active role in our communities to help them and their local areas to thrive.
“We’ve already been working with our communities in our parks and open spaces and I’m looking forward to building on our partnership with The Conservation Volunteers.”
Darren York, chief executive of The Conservation Volunteers, said: “We believe that there are significant and lasting benefits to be derived – for people’s health, prospects, communities and environment – by connecting people with outdoor places and with each other.
“After several years working in close partnership with local communities and Adur and Worthing Councils, this valuable support from the Big Lottery Fund will take our partnership to the next level.
“Growing Communities will provide a model for connecting people and outdoor places across the UK.”
A pilot of the Growing Communities project has already benefited Worthing’s only remaining ancient woodland.
Whitebeam Woods in Durrington, which is home to elm and oak trees dating back hundreds of years, is looked after by the Friends of Whitebeam Woods – a small and dedicated group of volunteers.
The woods have suffered from vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the past and the Friends are working to tackle this by engaging more with people about the value of the site.
They are also recruiting more volunteers to run community events and help with tasks such as coppicing, tree planting and wildlife surveys.
The Friends have been helped by the Green Spaces Partnership, developed by a pilot of the Growing Communities Project, which brings together community groups to exchange ideas, learn new skills and share best practice.
Ann Townsend of the Friends of Whitebeam Woods said: “We have found involvement in the Green Spaces Partnership very beneficial.
“It has given us access to other groups working in the area that we have had limited contact with in the past and training opportunities locally that have enabled us to get involved.”
As a result, the Friends have linked up with two other groups, Sustainable Sussex and the Worthing Conservation Volunteers.
Ann said: “Sustainable Sussex supported us throughout the day on a coppicing project.
“Their attitude was such that it enthused all present and this has continued well after this initial contact.
“The wood produced during this, and subsequent, project days has been used by Sustainable Sussex on other projects.
“We will be working closely with them for years to come.”
The new Growing Communities work, supported by the Big Lottery Fund and Adur and Worthing Councils, will enable other groups to make links and work together as well as support new ones.