DID YOU know that no community in Oldham is more than two miles away from open countryside?
Our borough has a real wealth of green space and countryside and we are rightly very proud of it, but we also have an ambition to bring green spaces even closer to our communities by enabling them to do things for themselves.
From greening alleyways to growing fruit and veg to planting trees, I am committed to making Oldham a greener place and I want to use this week’s blog to share with you a number of exciting initiatives that will help us to achieve this.
There’s already lots of evidence that access to green space has real benefits for physical and mental health; whether that is in reducing stress or increasing physical activity.
Food growing, for example, is a fantastic way of engaging and inspiring people of all ages, increasing access to fresh food, reducing isolation, improving health, as well as developing a whole range of really useful skills.
Get Oldham Growing has all these goals at its heart. Key to its success are the Growing Ambassadors, a team of community food growing champions using their skills and local knowledge to support their own communities.
It’s a programme that encourages residents to look at their area in a different way and consider how some spaces could be used differently to benefit local people. Whether it’s a back alleyway, a grass verge or a disused bowling green, Get Oldham Growing supports people to transform spaces through activity, enterprise and learning.
One great example is at Waterhead Park (pictured above).
An initial enquiry from a community group about the use of a small piece of land there has now led to the transfer of a 1,600 sq m disused bowling green. ‘Veg in the Park’, as it is known, is now a district food growing hub, managed by local people for the benefit of all. It has the potential to not only engage people of all ages and abilities, but also to generate income which will be reinvested back into the community in the years ahead.
Building on the success of Get Oldham Growing, I am also pleased to announce that we are establishing a Green Dividend fund. This aims to spark and support community action and initiatives to make places right across the borough greener through gardening and landscaping projects.
In total £100,000 of funding will be available as grants to community groups and residents, with a further £100,000 to be used to create green spaces in the areas where we have recently introduced Selective Licensing for private landlords.
Green Dividend funding could help you to green your back alley, run a hanging basket workshop for your street or create a community garden for your neighbourhood.
We’re looking for really creative ideas here, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
If you want some inspiration why not visit the WOW bed in the town centre and see the taxi centrepiece of our display – or nip along to Gallery Oldham and see the fantastic green roof that is currently adorned with flowers (pictured above). Both really do prove that urban greening can happen in the most unlikely of places.
Our partners at Voluntary Action Oldham will be managing the Green Dividend, and you can find out more at: http://www.vaoldham.org.uk/
I’m also pleased to announce that we will soon be launching a £100,000 fund for urban street tree planting across Oldham.
Aside from their obvious aesthetic value, trees have many environmental and ecosystem benefits ranging from pollution control to reducing the effects of climate change, and carbon storage.
Over the last two years I have been involved in a pilot scheme in areas of my ward in Failsworth East, where we’ve introduced more than 100 new street trees into places previously lacking in meaningful tree cover.
Communities have embraced the projects by rallying neighbours, undertaking consultations, deciding on locations and tree species and, ultimately, joining in the immediate aftercare of the trees – even decorating them at Christmas time with their children.
I want to empower more communities to make decisions on where and what types of trees are planted and take a leading (or should I say ‘weeding’[sorry!]) role in their aftercare.
So as we all look to the skies wistfully awaiting that next glimpse of summer, I invite you all to consider what community growing schemes, green space initiatives and tree planting could be undertaken in your neighbourhood. Through working together we can make Oldham a green and pleasant land.
This is my last blog before the traditional council recess break, but I will return again with my next post on Wednesday, August 26.
Thanks for listening,