Two Manchester neighbourhoods chosen for new UK-wide project aiming to ‘restore nature’

Oct 20, 2023 | Natural Environment

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Two Manchester neighbourhoods have been chosen for a new UK-wide project aiming to put communities at the heart of plans to restore nature.

Being close to greenspaces, and in and amongst nature, is not only for our physical health but also for our mental well-being too. However, recent statistics published in the People’s Plan for Nature 

– which set out recommendations to reverse the country’s shocking declines in nature back in March – revealed that, despite three-quarters of Brits being worried about the state of nature, the UK is in the bottom 10% of countries globally for protecting it.

The People’s Plan for Nature called for greater investment in ways to help communities take action to protect and renew nature at a neighbourhood level.

The Nature Neighbourhoods initiative has been launched as a direct response to the concerns raised in the People’s Plan for Nature and aims to help more people benefit from the advantages nature can bring.

As part of the project, 18 community organisations from across the UK will receive support from three of the UK’s largest nature charities, as well as funding from the National Lottery, and an extra helping hand from the Co-op, to create “people-powered plans for nature” in their local area.   

The three charities, the WWF, the RSPB, and the National Trust, have all come together as part of the Save Our Wild Isles campaign – which is an ongoing partnership to take action for nature’s recovery in the UK.

Each Nature Neighbourhood will be created by bringing local communities and decision-makers together to ensure their specific plan centres on their community’s priorities for tackling the nature and climate crisis. It will particularly focus on working with urban communities, as while most people live in towns and cities, areas where there are said to be “substantial barriers” to accessing nature along with higher social and economic inequalities.

The charities will work closely with local organisations – such as community centres, social enterprises, and volunteer food-growing collectives.

In Manchester, Newton Heath and Platt Fields have been chosen to take part in the project, and two established community organisations from the area, Sow The City and Manchester Urban Diggers, will benefit from funding and support.

Sow The City is a social enterprise focused on repurposing derelict urban sites into attractive, useful green space, and involving local residents in the process of doing so, while Manchester Urban Diggers is a volunteering organisation that focuses on food systems and growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs for local communities.

The Nature Neighbourhoods initiative has been funded by a £750,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, and an additional £300,000 from Co-op.

Rory Crawford, Project Manager for the Nature Neighbourhoods partnership explained: “Urban nature doesn’t tend to be the focus of wildlife documentaries, but most of us live in urban areas, and they present the biggest opportunity for people to access and take action for nature on a day-to-day basis.  

“Efforts to improve access and tackle the biodiversity and climate crises have not tended to focus on neighbourhoods experiencing high levels of deprivation.

“But the local community organisations involved in this project are at the forefront of addressing this, through community gardens, improving parks, connecting young people to nature, community inclusion, creating new green spaces and supporting safe, active travel.”

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