A BIG programme of environmental events in Sheffield will proceed this year, despite the council’s proposed withdrawal of support.
But organisers of Environment Weeks say it will become more difficult for them – and other community volunteers in the city – to pull together activities in the future without the expertise, organisational skills and contacts of the authority.
After 28 years, they aim to soldier on with a festival that last year saw more than 200 events across the city and involvde more than 70 groups in activities ranging from walks and conservation work to talks and plant sales.
Starting as a day event in 1984, Environment Weeks has grown and grown and helped to give grass roots credibility to Sheffield’s claims to be the greenest city in the country.
Already a programme has been drawn up for this year that starts on April 28 and runs through May into June.
“I don’t think there is any other city in the country that has kept going as long as we have,” said Pat Barsby, who chairs the working group. “This year it is certainly going ahead, next year I think we will need a strong working group to compensate for the loss of support.”
Sponsorship and grants help to pay for the production of the programme that lists all the activities.
No direct council financial help is given towards the event but the organisers have relied to a large degree on the practical advice and help of council staff to resolve any problems, such as insurance, to put groups in touch with each other and to help ensure events run smoothly.
Much of that role will fall increasingly on the shoulders of a working group of six or seven individuals.
Pat expects other community environment groups, including those that organise entries in In Bloom competitions and litter clean-ups, to be in a similar position as a result of the proposed withdrawal of the support of the council’s BEE team (Bloom, Education and Environment).
Savings of around £1.2m are being planned across the council’s parks, woodlands and countryside sections, including cuts in bowling greens’ maintenance.
Increases in pitch hire and allotment rents and the introduction of car parking charges in Hillsborough, Graves and Millhouses Parks are expected to generate up to £100,000 a year.
The council says it is facing enormous financial pressures and is having to look at “doing things differently”.
It is promising to give “initial advice and guidance” to community groups but some volunteers are worried that their efforts are not being fully recognised.
“I can understand the council’s financial plight but I would like them to make clear they still appreciate the work the groups do and that there are other ways they can still help, that if somebody wants to put on a community event, or to organise a tidy-up, they can still contact the council,” said Pat.