Going green as new Sunderland campaign group brings together communities to champion future of open spaces

A new group has put down roots to ensure green and open spaces across Sunderland are given their best chance to thrive.

By Fiona Thompson
Tuesday, 28 May, 2019, 10:57
David Newrick, formerly of Sustainable Sunderland, Graeme Jobes of A Sace2Grow, Tim Wright of Red Machine Allotment Association; Jenny French and Ann Huntley, both of the Friends of Herrington Country Park, Gillan Gibson, CPRE, and Victor Cadaxa, of the Friends of Herrington Country Park.

Derelict land at the end of a street to a local park or allotment, protected local landscape, a pond, river or the sea are among the areas which will be put under the spotlight by the team, which is looking to improve land across Wearside.

The Sunderland Green and Open Spaces Forum (SGOF) has been created to bring together all those groups seeking to improve open spaces and provide an opportunity for groups to share their knowledge and experience.

They will pool their knowledge to help each other, including groups who may be recently formed or may just have some initial thoughts, to learn from what worked and how problems were overcome.

The forum is also seeking to influence land use planning in the city and look at the local development plan, where people and groups are consulted by Sunderland City Council, with the hope they will provided a stronger, collective voice for communities.

The group has 33 members so far, including representatives from Durham Wildlife Trust, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Wear Rivers Trust and a number of friends groups who help care for parks.

The forum's acting chairman is Tim Wright, who is also Secretary of Red Machine Allotment Association.

He said: "The city has a huge range of different groups working on green and open spaces issues.

"Many work in isolation and so do not have any opportunity to find out what others are doing.

"Yes, there is social media which can be valuable but essentially does not enable that face to face contact that can be so powerful.

"We hope by showcasing the work that is happening particularly where it has achieved good results, it will provide a spur to others who could be looking to do something similar and don't know where to start."

Victor Cadaxa, a fellow committee member and chairman of the Friends of Herrington Country Park said: "'Sunderland parks have been devastated by austerity cuts that has left most with vastly reduced maintenance programmes.

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"As a friends group we, like other groups in the city, strive to protect and maintain our park.

"This has been challenging because there is simply less money about and bodies like the council have lost key staff whose knowledge and experience was relied on.

"By linking with like minded groups, sharing what we've done and listening to others experience, it will provide an opportunity to foster relationships and help to support and enable each other to develop and grow."

David Newrick, formerly of Sustainable Sunderland, said: "This is an important development for the city.

"For the first time to my knowledge we have a city wide forum bringing together all those with an interest in green and open spaces.

"Environmental sustainability in the city is in a constant state of flux.

"Pressures on the environment are intense particularly from housing, industrial development and roads.

"Enabling people to come together to share what they know and promote closer partnerships can only be for the better."

The next meeting of the group will be held at The Stables in McClaren Way, New Herrington, on Monday, June 10, from 6pm to 8pm, with refreshments available.

The group will go on a walk about and also listen to a talk by Karl Stabler, of Conservation Management Services, a Community Interest Company centred around horticulture.