Logo of The National Lottery Community Fund

Sunderland Green and Open Spaces Forum received funding in August 2019 for a 1 year project to build our capacity within the Sunderland area. Their funding is given with 3 main aims –

  • Bring people together and build strong relationships in and across communities
  • Improve the places and spaces that matter to communities
  • Enable more people to fulfil their potential by working to address issues at the earliest possible stage

The green and blue infrastructure matters to people. There is a strong evidence base linking enhanced individual and
community well being, reduced fear of crime, increased economic opportunities to green and open spaces that are of good quality and of a vibrant nature.
The initial idea was tested by phone contact, mail exchange and face to face meetings with representatives from 25 green space groups. These were predominantly friends of parks but also included bodies such as Durham Wildlife Trust, Council for the Protection of Rural England, Wears Rivers Trust and the Limestone Landscapes project. It took between five and six months to complete and was particularly challenging because there is no comprehensive database listing friends of parks and allotment groups.
The exercise confirmed the hypothesis that there is a gap and the individuals interviewed thought the idea of a citywide network was a rational one.

What will it do?

Exchange information from local, regional and national projects; provide advice and guidance to others wishing to establish a friends group to address a green and open spaces issue, share learning from local experiences, collaborate to extend examples of good practice via joint funding proposals and work together to influence the vision and strategic direction for blue and green infrastructure in the city. Within these broad parameters there will be flexibility for members to determine the focus of activity, for example, facilitating training courses such as bee keeping was highlighted during the initial intelligence gathering.


The Forum will operate on a medium to long term basis, conditional on it achieving what it set out to do and responding to members needs and achieving sustainable funding sources. In the first instance the project funding will last for 12 months. This, of course, has had to be extended in 2020 due to all venues being in lockdown and many organisations either furloughed or working from home.

Communication to audience

The Forum will use a number of channels to communicate its messages to residents of the city. It has already developed a website and Facebook page, and used the local press to advertise the group. It will work to influence existing green and blue open space groups in the city by addressing their regular meetings. Contact will also be made with a range of other individuals and groups eg residents association who may well have a vested interested or wish to campaign on a neighbourhood open space. In addition, working with officers and members of Sunderland City Council is vital. This will be done in a number of ways including working via five Area Voluntary and Community Sector Networks where the Forum will present and provide updates at their quarterly meetings.


The Forum will use one of its quarterly meetings to review the work it has undertaken over the past year. As part of this
process members will be engaged and encouraged to share their opinions. A report will be written documenting both
people’s feedback. It will also include a telephone call to those unable to attend to provide their views and an analysis of social media usage. This will be shared via the Forum’s website. It will also be shared with the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces and regionally via links the Forum has started to develop with Newcastle Parks Forum.

The Future

Many barriers exist that constrain communities, not least an international pandemic, but traditional ones too. We would hope to build on this project even though it must end completely by August 2021. Whilst it has been successful much still remains to be done and we would hope to receive further support in future to carry on the work and build on the successes we have achieved so far.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in finding out more about The National Lottery Community Fund or to apply for funding then you can visit their website by clicking on this link – https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/