The Green Spaces Fund, a manifesto commitment from Andy Burnham, has been running since 2021 and seeks to deliver fairer access to green spaces across Greater Manchester. Its aims from the beginning have included benefitting communities in greatest need of quality green space, tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency, and encouraging people to get involved with nature.

By supporting a host of community-led projects, the Green Spaces Fund has empowered groups to mobilise for collective climate action, taking ownership of their local spaces and making the changes they wish to see in their areas. The benefits of this are numerous – not only improving confidence, physical health and community wellbeing, but the environment too, showing how the health of people and planet can come together.

As one of the 6 organisations contracted to engage community groups and support them to access funding, Groundwork GM have been working hard in Rochdale to help people through the process. By assisting grassroots groups, tenancy and residents’ associations, neighbours and friends to come together, the advisors have been able to guide projects through each stage. This has meant that those who had never written funding bids or engaged in climate action could feel confident to do so – and further, to execute the project delivery when successful.

One group commented: “I really want to say the whole support has been amazing, Lydia was great and now Abbie has been more than supportive. I want to thank the team and believe you have a great team culture which you should be proud of, not many funders can say the same!”

Another, based in Newbold, Rochdale, stated: “Our experience with Abbie our support advisor has been superb. We are looking forward to working with Abbie throughout the project to its completion.”

Over the 2 years since the Fund started, the support of advisors Lydia Marshall, Martha Houston and Abbie Williams has enabled over £150,000 to been invested into Rochdale’s green spaces. More successes are yet to be announced with Round 4 results being released soon.

“It’s been a pleasure to see the groups’ visions and creative ideas grow into real tangible change, showing how, when people are supported with funds and advisory support, they can achieve so much for their climate and communities.”

-Abbie Williams, Rochdale’s Green Spaces Fund Advisor

Examples of successful groups include a community garden for Burnside, where food and herbs grown will support the Burnside Centre’s food pantry service. Deeplish Community Centre have been busy creating a wildlife area and community garden with marrow-growing competitions and youth engagement from the neighbouring school, and homelessness charity Petrus have been using their funding award to deliver nature-based social prescribing activities for residents across Rochdale.

All of these groups are in areas which face multiple challenges – namely, areas of highest need who may have traditionally missed out on community funding.

Advisors have also provided networking events, where these groups have been able to meet one another and share experiences, encouraging productive conversation across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester. Groups have reported how helpful this has been for their development, stating that: “Our experience of working with the advisors has been excellent, especially the results of the networking event. The event allowed us to make more meaningful connections and seek further support/ideas from other groups.”

The Green Spaces Fund is now closed, with no further rounds confirmed. The Greater Manchester Environment Fund is currently looking for further investment in order for this work to continue.