- Initiative helps tackle social and environmental inequalities through community action
- Strengthened community connections have given a voice to one of the most environmentally impacted communities in London, and helped combat social isolation and anti-social behaviour
Residents of Alma Street and surrounding streets in Newham are celebrating the completion of a huge community effort to transform a neglected play area into a brand-new space for play and exercise.
The revamp is part of ‘Greener Together’, a pioneering community-led project bringing residents and local authorities together to take climate action and create a greener, healthier, and more connected neighbourhood.
Over 80 households have been involved in improving the area, deciding they wanted to focus on creating cleaner, greener communal spaces where residents could spend more time enjoying the outdoors. Over the last year, residents have helped to plan the new play area and raised over £130K to make it happen.
They have also created a wildflower garden with wildlife friendly flowers and plants; installed a community allotment for growing herbs and vegetables; and taken part in regular community clean-ups. At their first tidy-up session, residents collected 30 bags of rubbish and over 10 bags of green waste, helping to reduce not only local litter but also discourage fly-tipping, which has been a huge issue locally. The residents are also taking part in a series of free workshops to help improve their growing skills so they can continue to maintain the green spaces in the long-term.
The project has also allowed residents to work alongside Newham Council to tackle other social issues within the area including accessibility issues for disabled residents, rough-sleeping, security concerns and anti-social behaviour.
Greener Together is a partnership between local residents, environmental charity Hubbub, the Mayor of London, Ten Years’ Time and Afterparti. It aims to address the fact that lower income and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in London are most likely to experience the impacts of climate change, including overheating and flooding; as well as poor air quality and lack of access to green spaces, and yet are often underrepresented in mainstream environmental programmes and groups. These inequalities have been further highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with access to outdoor space, walking and cycling more, and better air quality being integral to the city’s recovery.
Data shows that the borough of Newham is one of the most environmentally and socially deprived in London. A 2020 study by CentricLab highlighted the borough as having the highest compounded factors of “structural racism”, looking at population density of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (per 100k population) overlapped with pollution (SRS scores) and deprivation (IMD decile 2019). This coincides with the Mayor of London’s data, which highlights areas in the borough with high income deprivation and high levels of environmental inequality (e.g. poor access to green space, risk of overheating, air quality etc.).
To address poor air quality locally, Alma Street has been provided with an air quality monitor through the Mayor’s Breathe London programme. This is providing real-time data which can help inform local actions to reduce people’s exposure to toxic pollution.
The Greener Together project has not only empowered the residents to create more green spaces for the community to enjoy, but it has also helped them combat social isolation and anti-social behaviour through community projects, events and meetings.
Local resident and community co-ordinator Billie-Jean Holmes has been one of the key residents in getting her neighbourhood behind this project.
Billie said: “The Greener Together project has been a dream come true for many of our residents. For a long time they have felt disheartened and pessimistic about the issues our community was facing – from litter and fly-tipping to lack of accessible green space. Through coming together to tackle these problems, many members of our neighbourhood now feel empowered and valued. We’ve all learned that if residents and authorities work together, we can make our community better, healthier and stronger. I’m so pleased with what we’ve achieved with our much-needed new play area –the space will not only benefit local children but also the adults who will now have access to fitness equipment which will help get more people outside and active. I’m really excited about what lies ahead and what we can achieve as a community moving forward.”
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said: “As London transitions to a greener, cleaner city, we want to make sure that no one is left behind. We know that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities or those on lower incomes are more likely to experience the worst environmental impacts, such as toxic air pollution, flash floods caused by climate change, and a lack of access to green space. That’s why projects like Greener Together are vital – it has shown that with a bit of support, communities can totally transform their neighbourhoods and become much healthier and stronger. The work that these residents have done is truly remarkable.”
Rhiannon Ashley, Creative Partner at Hubbub said: “The Greener Together project has really demonstrated the power of people coming together to take climate action and shown that we can make a difference, even with small changes. Seeing the Alma Street residents working together to create a greener, healthier and more connected neighbourhood has been incredible and we hope it will inspire many more Londoners to engage with their community as well.”
The Greener Together programme is funded by Hubbub and the Mayor of London, with additional funding provided by Newham Council, Ecosia and Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the Breathe London network. The play area was designed and built by Playinnovation in collaboration with local residents. Learnings from the project will be shared in early summer to inform and help similar community schemes in other parts of London.
Hubbub and the Mayor of London are urging Londoners to visit www.hubbub.org.uk/london to find 10 key actions they can take to help the planet, from cutting emissions to protecting the city’s wildlife.