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Green Spaces Project of the Month

April 2003 - Confused Spaces - Balsall Heath, Birmingham
Contact: Tayear Mahmood, Environment Team Manager, Balsall Heath Forum,
The Tree Nursery, 82-89 St Paul's Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham B12
Tel. 0121 446 6183
tayear1@yahoo.com

Balsall Heath, 2 miles South of Birmingham City Centre, has become home to a succession of immigrant communities including Irish, Pakistani and the African-Caribbean community. At one time Balsall Heath had a bad reputation but efforts at community regeneration have gone a long way to turning around the fortunes of the area. Local people are pulling together to tackle crime, promote health, address women's issues and to improve the environment – all of which are seen holistically, as inter-linking concerns.

Confused Spaces are little pockets of council land that nobody seems to care for. In the past, disillusioned residents have used them as a dumping ground for waste. Balsall Heath Forum Environment Team have convinced the City Council, who own many but not all of the spaces, to let them use and improve these small corners, to clear up the rubbish and replace it with cheerful flowers and trees. They are trying to find ways of involving local people in taking an interest in these spaces, taking care of them and making them more pleasant and attractive for everyone. Open air activities such as cultural celebrations, arts and sports events have enticed people to come and see what is happening, and already communities are showing their willingness to support campaigns to protect and enhance their green spaces.

The Environment Team includes paid workers, trainees and volunteers recruited from within Balsall Heath, so they reflect the ethnic profile of the community. At first people viewed their work as low status, with few prospects; but as its impact becomes increasingly visible, the team are optimistic that career routes will open up and they will be recognized as role models, pioneering new areas of education and employment for ethnic communities within the environment sector.

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