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Groundwork's Community Allotment Design Service

Groundwork NI is offering a new landscape design service aimed at groups or individuals who wish to start their own community allotment project. Groups signing up for this service will receive a professional landscape design and illustrated plan of their proposals for use in funding applications and for public display purposes. For this service a flat fee of £800 plus VAT will be charged. This fee will cover the following key elements:

  • an initial site survey carried out by a member of Groundwork NI;
  • a detailed soil test on site plus report;
  • a services check for underground or overhead services on the site;
  • a half day consultation with a Landscape Architect to assess the group’s needs;
  • a professional sketch design drawn up;
  • up to six copies of this design in electronic and print formats;
  • an approximate cost breakdown for the proposed scheme;
  • advice on funding sources, fundraising, grant applications and planning application procedures, if required; and
  • provision of an advice leaflet on setting up a sustainable allotment project.

Groundwork NI is offering a special 10% discount to the first ten community groups who avail of this new service before 31 May 2011 (Quote Ref: GOO1). To find out more about these services, please contact Judy Meharg, Groundwork's Principal Landscape Architect on 9074 9494 or email

30 March 2011

£5 Million Lottery Cash to Help Community Venues Save Money During the Recession

Community groups throughout the region can apply to a £5 million Lottery programme to help them make improvements to their venues and save money during the recession.

The Big Lottery Fund's Energy Efficient Venues Programme offers Lottery cash to local groups to carry out improvements to their community venues so they can make savings on their heating and lighting costs and cut down on their spending.

Organisations can apply for two grant sizes through the Programme. Grants of £2,000 - £10,000 and grants of £15,000 - £50,000 are available for groups to carry out improvements such as double glazing, upgrading insulation, or installing a more efficient heating system.

If the venue is already energy efficient, a grant could give organisations the opportunity to install solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass technologies such as wood pellet boilers.

In order to qualify for a large grant, groups must carry out an Energy Audit of their venue. An Energy Audit is a report that shows groups how making improvements to their venue could help them save energy and cut their costs. If groups want help with paying for an Energy Audit they can either include the costs in their application for a small grant, or pay for it themselves.

It is possible to apply for a small grant followed by a large grant. But community organisations should be aware that, if they plan to do this, they need to get their application for a small grant in to the Big Lottery Fund by the end of August 2011. This will give them time to have their small grant assessed and awarded and to complete their project before applying for a large grant.

Groups that have already benefited from the programme include a small rural community group that is installing new PVC windows and ceiling insulation, and a community childcare centre that is putting in new radiators and buying energy efficient light bulbs. While a care home is improving its loft insulation and installing gas–fired tumble driers, and a sports club is carrying out an Energy Audit to find out whether they can install a wind turbine.

Information and application packs for the Energy Efficient Venues Programme are currently available and can be accessed by visiting the programme pages of the Big Lottery Fund's website or by calling the Big Lottery Fund's Information and Events team on 9055 1455. Groups can contact Community Places for help with the application process including advice on: 

  • energy efficiency measures;
  • planning permission and building control processes;
  • tendering and contracting for small scale capital projects; and
  • accessibility issues and sustainable development.

 Telephone 9023 9444, contact Elaine or Celine ( or

14 March 2011

Local Government Reform Consultation

The Department of the Environment published policy proposals for the reform of local government on 30 November 2010. The proposals set out governance arrangements for new councils and cover a range of issues including: the introduction of Community Planning responsibilities and power of well-being; ethical standards, oversight, and checks and balances to ensure fair and transparent decision-making.

Community Places held two workshops (in collaboration with the Rural Community Network and NICVA) to discuss the proposals and we have now prepared a Briefing Note to help groups respond to the consultation. Click here to download it. The consultation closes on 11 March 2011 and further information is available on the DoE website. Our response to the consultation proposals can be downloaded here.

If you would like any help with your consultation response please contact Louise or Clare at Community Places - telephone 9023 9444 or email

7 March 2011

Comber Residents Launch Community Plan

De Wind/Cherryvalley Area Residents' Association in Comber celebrated the launch of a Community Plan for the area in Scrabo Garden Centre on 21 January 2011. 

Over the course of the past year Residents' Association members worked hard - with each other and with representatives from key statutory agencies and voluntary organisations - to develop the Plan. Community Places  facilitated the process  through a series of planning workshops to identify objectives and actions for improving life for all residents in the area.  These all fed into the Community Plan and include: improving the physical environment across the housing areas; improving access to and links with existing facilities and services in the area and increasing the take up of health and wellbeing opportunities by residents. The planning workshops also enabled participants to discuss and agree the main issues and identify priority actions and who would take the lead in implementing them.

Community Places will continue to support the Residents' Association as it works towards implementing the Plan over the next while and will help it monitor progress on achieving the objectives. 

27 January 2011

Consultation on DSD Draft Budget and Concordat

The Minister for Social Development, Alex Atwood, has organised a series of meetings to discuss the impact of the Draft DSD Budget with voluntary and community organisations. Each of the meetings will also include consultation on the draft Concordat on relationships between government and the voluntary and community sector. The Concordat sets out shared commitments on how Government and the community and voluntary sectors can work together. The consultation will run for six weeks until 23 February 2011 and dates are as follows:

  •  Wednesday, 26 January 2011 (Clinton Centre, Enniskillen from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm);
  •  Thursday, 3 February 2011 (Rural Community Network, Cookstown from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm);
  •  Wednesday, 9 February 2011 (Ballybot House, Newry from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm); and
  •  Thursday, 10 February 2011 (Spectrum Centre, Belfast from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm).

 Further information is available at on the Department's website.

24 January 2011