Welsh community groups can bag share of new £1m Co-op Foundation fund

Money is available for projects which make community spaces more environmentally sustainable

A £1m fund has been launched today by the Co-op Group’s charity, the Co-op Foundation, to enable groups in Wales with a community and environmental focus to safeguard spaces and become more sustainable.

The funding comes from the 5p single-use carrier bag charge in the Group’s Welsh food stores.

Welsh groups can access grants of up to £10,000 to explore ways to make community spaces more sustainable. Funding could support feasibility costs, technical or legal fees, and projects which test and explore new ideas.

Eligible organisations must engage local people and support the environment, with applications closing at noon on Friday, 21 June.

In addition, interest-free loans of up to £50,000 are available to organisations to grow more established business ideas. Loans are usually repaid within five years with no need to make repayments in the first year. Some organisations could be eligible for a further grant dependent upon circumstances.

Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation, said: “Spaces like parks and woodlands need regular funds so they can meet the needs of the people who use them, love them and rely on them. This builds stronger communities for today, and a better environment for the future. We look forward to hearing from organisations with enterprising ideas that will boost their trading activities, support local people and help create a better environment for us all.”

The Co-op Foundation has been awarding funding to help community spaces UK-wide become more sustainable since 2017.  One group to benefit recently is Welcome to our Woods, based in the Rhondda Fawr Valley, South Wales. Its £90,000 funding boost will enable it to up-scale its conversion of waste wood into saleable products like furniture and biomass fuel, generating income to help maintain more areas of woodland sustainably, while creating jobs, training and volunteering opportunities for local people.

Working with Natural Resources Wales, Welcome to our Woods has identified up to 30,000 hectares of broadleaved woodland and conifer plantations in the Rhondda Valley that could be managed more efficiently. Funding will support them to expand their woodland sustainability work into this area, transform a former library in Bute Street, Treherbert, into a centre for wood-working and explore the creation of a ‘green gym’ in the community woodland space.

Ian Thomas of Welcome to Our Woods, said: “The natural landscape presents a huge opportunity and this funding boost from The Co-op Foundation will be instrumental in unlocking the resources and possibilities – it is a unique opportunity to explore projects which can improve the management of our environment while creating value for the local community.

“The schemes we are looking at also confront social issues such as skill shortages and fuel poverty, while presenting opportunities to bring families and communities together in this beautiful setting. We are delighted and excited at the news that The Co-op Foundation is supporting this project for the benefit of the environment and wider community.

“The funding puts us in a much stronger position to develop these resources, providing the unique opportunity to regenerate the area, create community income streams, local jobs and education opportunities. While making sustainable improvements to the local environment now and into the future through renewables, thanks to the support of the Co-op.”

For more information about the new fund, and details of how to apply, visit www.coopfoundation.org.uk