Community orchards, kitchen gardens and natural play areas are set to spring up across rural England thanks to a new government fund unveiled today (23 March). 

The new Community Green Spaces Fund will provide up to £7 million of funding to support communities across the country – from Northumberland to Cornwall – to create, restore and enhance their green spaces.  

Grants of up to £75,000 will be provided to help communities to plant fruits, vegetables and trees, creating orchards and kitchen gardens for all to access and enjoy. Landscaping projects could also create raised beds and improve areas to plant different flowers around village hall facilities and other community green spaces, making space for pollinators and nature to thrive.

Funding will also be awarded to support the expansion of natural play facilities which encourage children to spend more time outdoors, in addition to projects which focus on improving access to green spaces such as new paths and seating. To make the spaces more accessible to disabled people, funding will also be available for the creation of disabled parking spaces. 

The announcement supports the government’s ambition that no-one should live no more than a 15-minute walk from a green space, a commitment set out in our Environment Improvement Plan.

Minister for Rural Affairs Robbie Moore MP said: 

Our rural communities are an integral part of our society with rich human, economic and natural potential.

This government is committed to putting the needs of people and businesses in rural areas at the heart of policymaking. We have increased connectivity, modernised village halls, improved transport and expanded opportunity for England’s remotest communities.

The Community Green Spaces Fund will build on our ambitions for rural areas, creating and enhancing valuable community facilities and green spaces at the very heart of rural communities to preserve and protect their essential character.

An additional £5 million of funding for village halls has also been announced today to support capital improvement projects, such as building extensions and the installation of Wi-Fi. This follows the £3 million of funding made available to mark the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Village halls are vital to local communities, and we recognise the key role they play at that heart of rural life.

Richard Quallington, Executive Director at ACRE said:  

We welcome the government’s commitment to supporting rural communities so they can make the most of green spaces. The fund has the potential to support a wide range of initiatives that contribute to Net Zero and biodiversity net gain, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of local residents.

We know from our experience of administering recent grants to village halls that the availability of capital funding can catalyse new projects, many of which have had an environmental focus. We stand ready to support this new scheme.

In addition, the government has this week published its third rural proofing report, detailing progress the government has made in the past year to grow the rural economy, improve digital and transport connectivity, and build more homes.  

Achievements in the last year include cutting travel costs in rural areas with the £2 fare cap, connecting 162,000 homes to digital capable broadband through Project Gigabit, and the announcement of a National Planning Policy Framework which has enabled more homes to be built in rural areas where it is needed most.  

The third rural proofing report, Delivering Rural Opportunity, is available to read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-rural-opportunity

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