City of Nature Pilot Project

City Centre from Kingston Hill Park

Piloting the Birmingham City of Nature Plan and building an Alliance to help deliver it

The Birmingham City of Nature Plan and an Alliance to help deliver it will be the legacy of the both the work of the Naturally Birmingham Project and, through the achievements of this pilot project, the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Parks and green spaces, including blue infrastructure and water-based assets, provide considerable value. Together, they are known as ecosystem services, sustaining the city’s wildlife (its biodiversity); improving and sustaining health & wellbeing; community cohesion & quality of life; as well as mitigating and adapting to climate change. ​

However, access to green space across the city is not equitable and some sections of our diverse population of over 1 million people face barriers in accessing green spaces, participating in activities, or making full use of facilities on offer. ​We know that connection to nature not only provide benefits to the individual but also creates place attachment and a greater understanding and care for the wider environment.

Birmingham Environmental Justice Map April 22

You can download a pdf version of the Birmingham Environmental Map here:

Birmingham is the first city in the UK to develop a tool to highlight the inequalities in accessing green space alongside other key measures and produce an Environmental Justice Map which considers access to green space, health inequalities (through excess years of life lost), flood risk, urban heat island effect and the indices of multiple deprivation. ​ The OFCP identifies the wards covered by its vision for the heart of the city and although not all the wards are “red” wards as far as environmental justice recognises, Bordesley and Highgate ward is important both in the City of Nature vision for OFCP and has been identified as a red ward by the Naturally Birmingham Project. The OFCP has a key theme around a City of Nature, and our delivery framework will help this vision to be realised.

Bluebell Woods

To address these inequalities and the significant challenges posed by climate change and further highlighted by Covid-19, the city needs to put in place new ways of working across the organisation. ​ Climate change adaptation and addressing environmental justice will require new leadership and governance and action across the whole organisation. ​ This will need to be backed by a new funding model based around developing sustainable funding from a range of sources. ​

A partnership approach with external organisations is also critical and underpinning this will be the adoption of new ways to support communities to be more engaged through the Birmingham City of Nature Alliance​.

Through the implementation of the City of Nature vision , we seek to reduce inequalities employing a long-term co-ordinated plan of action that improves environmental quality and the health and wellbeing of residents across Birmingham. ​

Where the Pilot will be delivered

Garrison Lane Park

The Environmental Justice Map highlights inequalities across the city at a ward level, ranging from “red” wards to “green” wards. ​The project will focus on 6 of these red wards – Bordesley and Highgate, Nechells, Balsall Heath West, Gravelly Hill, Pype Hayes and Castle Vale

Bordesley and Highgate activities

The first Ward in the pilot will be Bordesley and Highgate Ward, which is in Ladywood Constituency, where the following 5 public open spaces and parks will be improved through the Fair Park Standard: –

  • Highgate Park                                                                    Postcode: B12 0TT
  • Kingston Hill Park                                                             Postcode: B9 4NB
  • Garrison Lane Park                                                          Postcode: B9 4LJ
  • Denbigh Street POS                                                         Postcode: B9 4TA
  • New Hope Community Park                                         Postcode: B7 5NF

The pdf below shows the suggested actions required to raise these parks to a Fair Parks Standard.

Aims and Objectives of Pilot

This pilot aims to deliver the City of Nature plan as fully as possible at this time in the plans development. This includes the establishment and coordination of an alliance of existing organisations to help deliver actions on the ground in parks. This will become a citywide whole estate approach to achieving environmental justice across Birmingham.

The Bordesley and Highgate Pilot Project will be completed by March 2023

The project will focus on five themes to maximise the benefits our green spaces provide, starting with those green spaces managed by BCC Parks and Nature Conservation, part of the Street Scene division, of the Operations Directorate of BCC, Darren Share – Assistant Director.

Key City Themes:

  • A Fair City – We will make sure every citizen has access to good quality green space wherever they live; that there is fair access to green jobs and that our workforce reflects our diverse communities
  • A Green City – Where nature is recognised as integral to wider decision and plan making; and where green spaces, nature and the environment are protected, maintained, and sustainably managed.
  • A Healthy City – We will make sure every citizen in Birmingham can access opportunities in green spaces to improve their health and wellbeing as part of the foundations of a Good Life
  • An Involved City – Citizens will be able to know, love and protect green spaces and nature.
  • A Valued City – We will develop a circular economy funding model that seeks to better capture the true value of the natural environment and ensure that future investment happens where it is needed most, making the invisible benefits, visible.

Objectives of the BCoN Alliance Establishment Project

1. Establish a Birmingham City of Nature (BCoN) Alliance https://naturallybirmingham.org/birmingham-city-of-nature-alliance/

As there will not only be one organisation but many organisations working together the “business” functions of the Alliance will be delivered by all Alliance founding member organisations coordinated by the BCC City of Nature Officer who reports to Darren Share, Street Scene Assistant Director and supported by the FPA Project Director, Hamira Sultan – Public Health, the Green City Manager, Nick Grayson – BCC Parks and Nature Conservation and the FPA Naturally Birmingham team until the close of the Naturally Birmingham Project to ensure all learning and knowledge is successfully transferred from the project team to this role.

It should be noted that the establishment of the Alliance and the delivery of the Bordesley & Highgate pilot would form only part of the work of each individual Alliance organisation / member who will also continue to deliver their business-as-usual work. Only actions detailed in the outputs and outcomes would be funded through this project.

All funded Alliance members will be asked to sign an MOU which will include contract / grant conditions to ensure the commitment to the delivery of the project objectives. The BCoN Alliance must be an alliance of partners, and not just the one organisation. It will ‘identify, recognise and leverage differences (strengths) to create value and impact’. 

Alliance founding members:

“NGOs” / Charity members who will be funded to provide officer time to help deliver the project

Already part of FPA Naturally Birmingham Project:

New members:

Also: West Midlands Police Service, will provide insight and support around community involvement and delivery on site.

Alliance Operating Model and Roles and Responsibilities:

  • BCC City of Nature Board Chair to monitor until March 2023 – Governance
  • BCC City of Nature Officer covering the whole of the City of Nature Environmental Justice work including the Alliance Project – Project Management.
  • BCC Parks Project Group – professional advice, data management and business as usual change management.
  • BCC Park Ranger – on site assistance where required and local knowledge – Delivery support; and other BCC Parks staff as required.
  • Future Parks Accelerator – Naturally Birmingham Team (while the FPA project is live and then Alliance members) Business support.
  • Alliance Members (working with BCC Rangers where possible) – on site delivery of actions
  • Green Champions
    • Paid or unpaid staff that take a lead role in co-ordinating green space activities including but not limited to police officers, teachers, children, community leaders, etc
    • Volunteers (unpaid involvement) who carry out more specific tasks on a day-to-day basis

Objects for the BCoN Alliance:

  • Continue to identify organisations across Birmingham that deliver outcomes in line with the aims of the Our Future City and City of Nature Vision and invite them to join the Alliance membership to help delivery of actions identified in the City of Nature Delivery Framework.
  • Establish and maintain a forum for BCoN Alliance members to come together, whether online or in person to contribute to decision making regarding action taken in each of the 6 Red Wards as identified in the five-year plan.
  • Communicate information between BCoN members, communities, and other stakeholders.
  • Maintain relationships with people interested / involved with the City of Nature project, including but not limited to volunteers.
  • Leading the development of a Green Champions Network App.
  • Help deliver opportunities for volunteers to be involved in site development and management not already resourced.
  • Deliver educational establishment engagement not already resourced.
  • Deliver community engagement activities like Earth Stories.
  • Identify Community Leads (Green Champions), who are individuals willing to train to lead community activities on a voluntary basis.
  • Help to identify funding opportunities and investment to develop a sustainable funding model for the delivery framework including but not limited to, paying for assistance with bid writing for any established groups.
  • Delivery of actions required to bring parks up to Birmingham Fair Standard – even in areas that do not have established Friends of groups

2. Action plan for delivery in Bordesley and Highgate Ward, including Identification of existing resources to support delivery.

3.  Action plan for deliver in 5 other wards: Gravelly Hill, Balsall Heath West, Pype Hayes, Castle Vale and Nechells.

4. Identify, engage, and involve at least 1 Green Champion for each of the five sites in Bordesley and Highgate Ward (5 Green Champions). Green Champions are members of the community who will help deliver actions on site and or advocate for environmental justice and green spaces. They may be volunteers or professionals such as teachers who have a green focus. Training will be provided as appropriate.

5. Community Involvement activities with early years children and local schools, monthly activities offered during Spring Term.

6. Community involvement activities for individuals and families offered in at least the 5 Parks in Bordesley and Highgate ward 2 occasions per month March to December 2022 on site delivering activities including Healthy Parks, walks, exercise, and mental health mindfulness activities.

7. Physical landscape improvements including wildflower areas and tree planting appropriate for each site – being developed through the action planning process, will be identified by December 2021.

8. Sustainable Finance Strategy to ensure there is funding to keep comms, engagement, volunteer point of contact and CRM in operation after March 2023. A proposal of how the Alliance could raise money for the 5 subsequent wards to deliver some elements of place and people.

9. Communications Plan and delivery to engage local residents and businesses. Monthly newsletter, social media at least three times per week, monthly press releases, parks content webpages created for the POS sites within the 6 red wards (within BCC website).

The legacy we expect to leave from the Pilot Project

  • Sustained usage of park facilities in Bordesley and Highgate Ward by priority groups (Families with young children and Schools and Early Years Providers, those with health concerns that can benefit from social prescriptions, socially isolated members of the community.)
  • Increase in level of physical activity (based on reported activity level per week) within the parks in Bordesley and Highgate Ward.
  • Increase in % people who report they have opportunities to be physically active in Parks.
  • Increase in sense of wellbeing by people using the parks in Bordesley and Highgate Ward.
  • The degree to which local people feel empowered and/or inspired to undertake physical or wellbeing activity as a result of improvements to their parks.

The five parks in Bordesley and Highgate ward will reach the Birmingham Fair Standard in effect increasing the environmental Justice score for the score of the park through the actions detailed in the Action Plan being developed being delivered by the BCoN Alliance and Birmingham City of Nature Operations Group.

Actions plans for 6 other wards will be written together with BCC City of Nature Operations group and part delivery where possible. Details to be developed as part of this project.

A Sustainable finance model for the delivery of actions through the BCoN Alliance will be created.

Green Champions (individual volunteers and professionals) will be involved in the delivery of activities in the parks including, park maintenance (such as litter picking), nature recovery actions (such as tree planting), healthy activities (mindfulness walks), skill shares and activities created by the community as the place attachment with the park progresses.

Through working with communities, the Alliance will test and establish a model whereby communities are:

  • Able to come together to agree on the actions that they will support and help deliver.
  • Empowered to make decisions on what services or changes are required to create an even better standard of green space going forward.
  • Supported to hold discussions with key services and decision makers so that the voice of the community is at the heart of decision making which affects the community.

This will require a focus on building the networks within communities or and the skills and confidence of those with influence within their community who can then represent the community voice with other organisations.

Benefits also delivered by the site action plans but not by the BCoN Alliance

  • Infrastructure and Maintenance review of BCC green space.
  • Further Landscape enhancement identified in an audit and action plan.
  • Ongoing community engagement opportunities through the BCoN BCC Operations Group
  • More co-ordinated working across community green space organisations and BCC Departments.
  • More efficient use of co-ordinated resource to impact the 6 red wards
  • An increased score from the baseline PQA and all sites in the 6 red wards to be at the fair Birmingham Standard by 2027
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