People living in five areas of Plymouth will be embracing healthier lifestyles and enjoying the great outdoors on their doorstep, thanks to a new project.
Active Neighbourhoods has today been awarded £419,000 from the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund to get cracking on a programme of health and community-related activities in and around woods and green spaces across the city.
The project, which is led by the Council and will be delivered in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust, will work intensively with residents in Stonehouse, Ernesettle, West Park and Honicknowle, St Budeaux, Kings Tamerton and Efford.
The three-year programme follows in the successful footsteps of the Stepping Stones to Nature project, a citywide scheme designed to get local people more connected with their environment.
Now more deprived areas of the city are to receive special attention to help residents enjoy the open space on their doorstep, promote a sense of ownership and help protect it for generations to come.
The funding will enable the project to pay for three posts – a part-time project coordinator, a full-time community and volunteering officer and a Devon Wildlife Trust based urban ranger.
They will be recruiting volunteers to set up friends groups to take more control of five natural green spaces of Devil’s Point, Budshead Wood, Ernesettle Creek, Kings Tamerton Wood and Efford Marsh.
These groups will be supported by Devon Wildlife Trust and the Council to develop improvement and management plans for the sites. Improvements to local green spaces are likely to include better signs, new entrances, paths along with more seating.
Plans will also be drawn up with local residents aimed at making the spaces better for the local birds, bats, bumblebees, butterflies and other wildlife. The project also promises to ensure that the wild locations will be given a securer future with better protection by planning laws.
Cabinet Member for the Environment Councillor Brian Vincent said: “This is a really exciting project which will have many strands that will have real benefits for the people who live in these areas.
“The link between being active and involved in your community and improved mental and physical health is well documented and this scheme is a sustained effort to change lives as well as make our environment more attractive.
“It will be good for the wildlife too.”
The project will also involve input from health professionals who will be trained to consider the benefits of outdoor activities for their patients, particularly those suffering from mental health issues.
Local residents will also be given more support and guidance to enable them to have more of a say in where they live.
The small team behind the project will work closely with partners and the community to put on lots of exciting events and activities to encourage residents to get to know these locations better, to use them more often, get more involved in their community and try out different things.
Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, Harry Barton, said: “I am absolutely delighted by this news. At Devon Wildlife Trust we believe that regular contact with nature and with wildlife makes everyone happier and healthier. This funding from BIG and our partnership with Plymouth City Council is a fantastic opportunity to bring more wildlife into Plymouth and to make it part of everyone’s daily experience.”
Active Neighbourhoods builds on the success of the Stepping Stones to Nature project, which ran for four years in Plymouth until 2013. A partnership project, it is aimed to make it easier for people to enjoy the 225 green spaces including nature reserves, wildlife sites as well as playgrounds and parks in the city.
It involved community organisations, schools, children’s and youth centres in and around Plymouth and encouraged people who do not normally think of the parks and nature reserves on their doorsteps when it comes to enjoyment, entertainment and health.
It aimed to encourage more residents to get in touch with the natural world and showed the importance of providing great natural spaces to improve residents’ wellbeing and to raise aspirations.
Devon Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading environmental voluntary body, with 32,000 members. The charity manages 49 nature reserves across Devon, including a range of beautiful landscapes such as woodlands, meadows, wetlands and heaths. More at www.devonwildlifetrust.org
Reaching Communities is a Big Lottery Fund programme. The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. It is responsible for giving out 40 per cent of the money raised by the National Lottery for good causes and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £33 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.