A new report published by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, reveals the huge difference made to people’s lives through improving outdoor community spaces.
The report, Breathing Space, reveals that over the past five years The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded nearly 8,400 grants to outdoor community spaces across the UK – places that became sanctuaries for people during the COVID-19 pandemic. This amounts to almost £530 million in National Lottery, Government and third-party funding.
This vital funding has supported a staggering 3,400 allotments and community gardens, where people can come together to grow food, plants and flowers. Alongside this, nearly 2,200 projects related to parks and green spaces received a share of the funding to help connect families, friends and neighbours outdoors.
It has also helped to create or renovate over 220 outdoor gyms, more than 300 sports pitches and nearly 50 footpaths, which offer spaces for communities to improve their physical and mental health in the fresh air. Children have been given new opportunities to play, explore and learn by improving access to almost 700 playgrounds.
At the time of the strictest COVID lockdowns, a walk outside in nature was one of only a few reasons people could leave their homes. The National Lottery Community Fund’s latest Community Research Index found that over half (53%) of people think that having access to natural green spaces is most important when it comes to the physical environment and assets their community needs to prosper and thrive in 2022. In support of this, over 830 woodlands and almost 430 lakes and waterways have been awarded funding in the past five years.
Our Bright Future, led by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and awarded £33 million of National Lottery funding, has given over 120,000 young people (aged 11-24) across the UK an opportunity to enter environmental careers by developing their skills and increasing their confidence. After participating, the proportion of young people who felt confident in themselves doubled from 40% to 80%, demonstrating the social and wellbeing benefits of meeting and working with new people outdoors. The programme has also had a positive impact on the environment, with nearly 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved and almost 13,000 kilograms of waste diverted from landfills.
Incredible Edible is another National Lottery funded project that has been changing people’s lives. Thanks to a £700,000 grant, its network of 144 groups and 6,000 volunteers bring local communities together by transforming disused areas into thriving growing spaces. Between 2018 and 2020, groups put in 88 years of combined time, held almost 350 gatherings for people to grow food together, and over 300 events to spread awareness of the benefits of growing local produce.
Faiza Khan MBE, Director of Engagement and Insight at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“This report highlights the incredible impact that money invested into outdoor community spaces has on people’s lives across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players, places like allotments, community gardens and parks are at the heart of our communities and provide a focal point for people to come together, make connections and build friendships and support networks. These spaces were a haven during COVID-19 restrictions and continue to play a vital role in helping communities to prosper and thrive as we rebuild from the pandemic.”
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players, who raise over £30 million each week for good causes across the UK.
To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk