Belfast has many green spaces and small areas of great wildlife value and potential dotted around local communities and housing estates. This is particularly true for urban fringe areas where residential districts are hemmed in by the steep slopes of the Belfast Hills along the west and north of the city. The rivers and streams coming off these slopes often flow into the city along narrow wooded valleys between housing estates. Sometimes these have become interfaces or ‘no go’ areas between different Belfast communities, creating extra challenges in getting people to work together to improve their local environment. Often these important sites have been forgotten about, only used for fly-tipping, antisocial behaviour or lost to development. Local communities want to address these issues but need support to do so.
We are hoping to offer support, advice and a channel to build partnerships across communities and sites. Our officer will work with our local communities to plan what improvements they want on site, build up capacity amongst communities and add a broader perspective of wildlife and community projects that span across several sites on different areas, whether that’s putting in wildlife ponds, community orchards or restoring hedgerows. The potential to encourage local communities to share knowledge, resources and inspiration is huge if the right skills and resources are put to good use. We have already seen how much community volunteers get out of simply visiting similar sites and finding out how people solve the same problems they face – or at least support each other to seeking solutions.