The Barrow Island play park project
In Barrow Island Big Local, Ali Greenhalgh is the worker there and part of her role is to help support the Big Local partnership to secure external funding. She feels the Big Local partnership has been pursuing additional funding in order to spend their Big Local money wisely. Ali says:
“It’s making the money go further and seeing a lasting impact.”
One of the strongest themes in Barrow Island’s Big Local plan has been to develop a play area in their local park space. The space was previously empty and with many families locally without a garden, residents felt it was important to give children and young people in the area a better public space to use.
The council owns the park Barrow Island chose to develop, so residents have needed to work closely with them to plan for the changes they want. The council has been supportive of residents’ ideas and they have developed a good working relationship.
Residents carried out some research about what kind of play park would work best for their needs. Looking at other parks and costs, they found out that the play area they wanted would cost £200k. Four different plans were received to complete the work for Barrow Island, with the residents working with others to choose the best solution for their needs.
While it might have been possible to fund the entire project through Big Local, Ali was keen to highlight to the Big Local partnership that there could be opportunities to attract funding for at least part of the project from other sources. The Big Local partnership responded positively to Ali’s suggestion and tasked her with finding out about what funding sources might be available locally to support their project.
Looking at local available opportunities, they approached the local funder ‘Wren’ for their larger grants scheme of up to £50k to support their project. Ali spoke to Wren at an early stage of the application and was advised that the council would need to be part of their bid, because they owned the land. So working together with the council as joint-applicants, they have been successful in achieving a £46k grant for their multi-use games area. By sourcing additional funding they’ve saved £46k that they can now use for other Big Local activities!
Working with their local funder
As soon as Barrow Island made the initial call to Wren, they found they were very helpful. However, the wait between the submission of the application until the decision from the funder made the planning of the project complicated because they couldn’t start any work they hoped to gain funding for.
For the grant application, they were required to itemise each item of expenditure, so they needed to quote this accurately and do all of the work behind the scenes about the full costs of the project. To be successful in their application, they also needed to demonstrate that this was a project the community was behind. The Big Local consultation work was hugely helpful with this, since they had already gathered lots of views and evidence to demonstrate why the play park is needed. Ali adds:
“I think Wren really wanted to know - has it come from the community and what’s the need?”
Developing and opening the park
Wren awarded the grant for the multi-use games area in February 2014 and the appointed contractors started work shortly after this, taking a few months to build the play park.
The official opening was in July 2014 and the Big Local partnership was successful in involving a range of stakeholders locally, including the local press and Radio Cumbria. Residents were excited about the prospect of the new park and the difference that it would make to people’s lives in the area. Ali says:
“For months leading up to it schoolchildren would come to the drop-in asking ‘when’s it going to happen?’ It’s probably the best park in the area now, people are just overwhelmed by it.”
(Picture above: screen grab from North West Evening Mail, 17 July 2014)
Building on this success, the Big Local partnership is now looking into the possibility of a new sports facility in Barrow Island. This would be beyond the budget for Big Local to cover but through working with the Lancashire Football Association, the Football Foundation and Sport England, there is hope that they can fund it jointly. As Ali says, Big Local provides the starting point to even consider projects on this scale:
“I think it helps to have that (Big Local) funding because without it you wouldn’t be in a position to apply for match funding.”
Big Local as the starting point to gain additional funding
Big Local is not intended to be funding that is ‘instead of’ other funding; it’s about providing extra resources to areas that haven’t had their fair share of funding in the past.
This means that it’s important to take advantage of opportunities that exist locally. Big Local is one way for people to build their skills and experience of applying for additional funding which will be useful for the future. Ali explains:
“I think really it’s giving them the idea that they can apply elsewhere. So hopefully they can support more projects, or maintain a reserve so things last longer, to maintain the benefit for a longer period of time.”
Ali has observed that the success in securing additional funding has given people confidence in the decisions they make about spending Big Local funding.
“You feel that you’re not wasting the money, you know you’re actually doing a good job with it, you’re being accountable and responsible with it. You care about where you live and you’re making best use of that opportunity with the funding you have available.”