A NORTH-EAST Wildlife Trust has launched a £169,000 project to restore green spaces around Sunderland.

Durham Wildlife Trust has secured £149,462 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and £20,000 match funding from Sunderland Council, for the development stage of a project that ultimately aims to restore nature in 13 green spaces across Sunderland’s Coalfield area.

The ‘Link Together’ project is aimed at encouraging more people to engage with wild spaces by creating a network of habitats across an area that includes the wards of Copt Hill, Shiney Row, Houghton-le -Spring, and Hetton-le-Hole.

It will cover nature reserves, parks, woodlands, water courses and the former Elemore golf course. The development stage of the project will focus on creating links with local people so that they can be consulted on and involved in the plans for the green spaces.

Durham Wildlife Trust director, Jim Cokill, said: “We will work with local people to restore a significant area of wild space and create a vibrant and wildlife-rich network across the Coalfield area of Sunderland. Not only will this allow wildlife to thrive, but it will give local people a sense of pride and ownership of those wild spaces.

“We know that access to nature can have a positive impact on people’s health. This project aims to create better connections between residents and nature, so that as many people as possible can enjoy their local wildlife and the benefits that will bring.”

Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are delighted to be a partner of the ‘Link Together’ project that will deliver significant natural heritage improvements to greenspaces in the Sunderland Coalfield area.

“Working jointly with Durham Wildlife Trust, as well as the Sunderland GP Alliance, Wear Rivers Trust, and Coalfield Area Committee, we will be able to deliver coordinated improvements to greenspaces, woodland and water features around Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole.

“Of key importance to this project is being able to deliver schemes with local resident support.  Residents will be engaged throughout the project and offered opportunities to help deliver schemes through volunteering as well as social prescribing support measures that will be geared towards supporting individual physical and mental well-being.”

The first stage of the two-part project will last a year, establishing links and consulting with local residents, as well as carrying out surveys and feasibility studies. It is hoped that approval will be given for the second phase in late 2023, which will mean that a further £1.8m will be invested to deliver community participation and implement habitat and infrastructure improvements. Delivery would begin in 2024 and last two years.

  • Visit durhamwt.com/link-together for more information about the Link Together project.