Friends Groups are dedicated local people who work together to improve the appearance, facilities, and quality and value of a green space. This include Friends Groups for parks and gardens, amenity green spaces, play areas, nature reserves, and green corridors.
Friends Groups activities include:
- Leading walks, talks, events and activities.
- Fundraising for improvements in the green space.
- Championing and promoting the green space to the community.
- Helping to inform the improvements for the green space, including bigger funding and investment projects.
- Volunteering time and coordinating volunteer activity in maintaining and improving the green space.
- Practical tasks like litter picks, tree planting, weeding, and education visits.
Working in partnership
The way that the Council works with Friends of Parks and Green Spaces Groups is set out in a Partnership Agreement.
Following consultation, the partnership agreement was approved in Nov 2022. You can read further information about the approval of the partnership agreement here.
All Friends of Parks and Green Spaces have been invited to enter this partnership agreement. The agreement can be entered into with the Council from Dec 2022 and will need to be in place to work with the Council by 31 March 2023.
New Friends of Parks and Green Spaces will need to register, including entering into the partnership agreement, to work with the Council at the time they set up.
Setting up a new friends group
Setting up a Friends Group to improve a green space in your area can seem like a big task. It is a lot simpler than people think, and there are people and organisations who will be happy to help you get started. Lots of these supports are in the resources section below.
You will also get advice and support from those Friends Groups who have done this for many years. Some of these groups started with a few people and have grown to several hundred members and raising lots of money over the years for parks and green spaces.
But, remember, you do not need to be a big group to be successful – smaller groups, with just a few members have been able to raise money and improve green spaces in their area.
There are two places to start with getting your Friends Group up and running:
- Take a look at the advice and resources available on how to set up a Friends Group here. .
- Register your interest in becoming a Friends Group with Sandwell Council, and one of our team will guide your through the steps you need to take, including entering into a partnership agreement with the Council which sets how we work together.
Communications with the Council
The Green Spaces service is a team of dedicated and hard-working staff who are focussed on delivering improvements through the Green Spaces Strategy Implementation and Business Plan 22 – 25.
The Partnership Agreement sets out how we work with Friends Groups. This includes how we communicate with each other in the following ways:
- Through quarterly meetings. All registered Friends Groups with a partnership agreement are invited to meet with Sandwell Council senior representatives to share best practice and work together to improve our green spaces.
The dates of these meetings for the next year are (locations to be confirmed):
|Quarter 3 (22/23)||1st Dec (6pm-730pm)||1st Dec (6pm-730pm)|
|Quarter 4 (22/23)||20th Feb (6pm-730pm)||27th Feb (6pm-730pm)|
|Quarter 1 (23/24)||15th May(6pm-730pm)||22nd May(6pm-730pm|
|Quarter 2 (23/24)||14th Aug (6pm-730pm)||21th Aug (6pm-730pm)|
|Quarter 3 (23/24)||20th Nov (6pm-730pm)||27th Nov (6pm-730pm)|
|Quarter 4 (23/24)||4th Mar (6pm-730pm)||11th Mar (6pm-730pm)|
- Through the approval of an annual improvement plan at the start of each financial year (from April 2023), with the details of the proposed planned works to be undertaken by the Friends Group in the green space (including those works and activities that might require Council officer time, including the time of Green Services staff such as Park Gardeners).
- Through the available communication channels to the Council include:
- The report it function on my.sandwell.gov.uk or through the MySandwell App for repair issues, fly tipping, tree issues, or other green spaces issues.
- Through contacting customer services and raising a general enquiry for other issues not listed on the report it function.
- Through the Anti-Social Behaviour reporting line.
Friends groups resources
- If a Friends Group wants to carry out practical tasks in a green space, then they will need Public Liability Insurance (to cover accidents to the public on site) and personal accident insurance (to cover volunteers working site). Insurance is not expensive, and many good deals are available. You can find more information online, including The Conservation Volunteers.
- The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces is an umbrella organisation supporting over 7,000 groups across the UK, and exists ‘to amplify the voices of Friends Groups across the UK’.
- The National Federation runs the Parks Community UK website which provides a ‘one-stop shop’ of information compiled by and for Friends Groups. This includes template constitutions.
- The Green Flag award scheme has a toolkit for the development of a Friends of Park Group.
- The Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations provides many useful guides, training and resources that would benefit Friends Groups including fundraising webinars and guides, how to write a funding application, project management and planning, and the workings of a voluntary organisation
Friends groups funding opportunities
Friends Groups have access to funding opportunities to improve green spaces, or deliver volunteer and education projects, that the Council are unable to access.
- Funding central is a good place to search for grant opportunities, including smaller amounts of money for one of items or projects.
- Awards for All is a grants programme for small amounts (£300 - £10,000) and the Council encourages all Friends Groups in Sandwell to make an application.
- SCVO have a small grants programme.
- The People’s Postcode Lottery have grants available.
- Crowdfunding is a good way to raise funds for specific projects to improve a green space, and SpaceHive provides a good way of doing this.
- The West Midlands Combined Authority are currently considering applications from community groups (including Friends Groups) to improve low quality green spaces in Sandwell, through their Community Green Grants programme. Funding is available for small projects (£3,000 - £25,000) and large projects (£25,000 - £100,000). Priority is given for those projects with the most impact in deprived areas with low quality green space. More information can be found on the information sheets here.
Key information on Community Green Grants:
- Top tips on increasing biodiversity, support for groups on ways to include biodiversity in their project: Top-Tips-for-increasing-biodiversity-V1.3 (heartofenglandcf.co.uk)
- Green deprivation map, projects not within 300m of green space will be prioritised: Greenspace Viewer - Public (tfwm.org.uk)