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HPC Community Fund gives outdoor spaces a new lease of life

Neglected outdoor spaces and gardens in the Bridgwater area are being given a fresh lease of life thanks to new social enterprise Social Circles CIC, with the help of a grant for just over £4,000 from the Hinkley Point C (HPC) Community Fund, managed by Somerset Community Foundation (SCF).  

Following a pilot project in the spring of this year, the team at Social Circles has worked closely with other organisations to support those unable to maintain their outdoor space, with referrals from social services, NHS teams, housing associations and local community groups including Community Council for Somerset’s Village and Community Agents.

Social Circles was awarded an HPC Community Fund grant from the Small Grants Programme in August 2022 to support older communities, those who are vulnerable, and people with disabilities to tidy and maintain their gardens.

The programme has been enormously successful with many people in the communities requesting help with their outside spaces. Recent work has included garden clearance for a couple with limited mobility; garden maintenance and hedge trimming for a bereaved woman; garden clearance for a veteran; strimming and grass cutting for a new mother; and removal of green waste for a young man who was struggling. They mainly cover the Bridgwater area, including housing in the Sydenham and Hamp estates, which are within the 20% most deprived in England.

Val Bishop, Programmes Director at Somerset Community Foundation, explained: “Access to green spaces is recognised as a way of reducing the risk of mental health challenges and improving emotional wellbeing by Public Health England.

“We received this application for funding to the HPC Community Fund to replace the tired old power tools that Social Circles had been using for their earlier pilot project. Thanks to the grant they’ve been able to buy new commercial grade gardening tools to help with garden clearances. The project will improve the quality of life for many people living in this area of Sedgemoor who would otherwise be unable to, or not want to, go out into their gardens.”

Phil Sharratt, Director at Social Circles, added: “We know the cost-of-living crisis is having a greater impact on the poorest people in our communities. It’s a requirement within tenancy agreements that all residents of social and privately rented housing maintain their external spaces. Those on low incomes who are unable to maintain their own gardens are finding it increasingly challenging to afford to pay someone to do the work – especially as the cost to hire a gardener is also rising.

“This can cause increased anxiety as people are concerned about not maintaining their external spaces and the repercussions to their housing status. As a Gateway service, we’re breaking down barriers with our service users and we’re also able to encourage them to connect with other support organisations to receive additional help they may need.

“Since April we’ve worked with over 70 households to help them reclaim their gardens, including older people, people with physical impairment, mental health conditions, those recently bereaved, diagnosed with cancer, and those awaiting or recovering from surgery. The new power tools funded by the HPC Community Fund are helping us to work faster and more efficiently.”

Andrew Cockcroft, Senior Community Relations Manager, Hinkley Point C said: “This project demonstrates the diverse nature of our community fund and its ability to support vulnerable people no matter their age or personal circumstance. It is fantastic to see this project operating alongside the other grants awarded since the summer – all of them offering new opportunities for lasting benefit.”

Somerset Community Foundation has awarded grants worth over £35,000 from the HPC Community Fund Small Grants Programme to groups since July of this year:

  • 1st Bridgwater Rangers, Bridgwater: £1,828 – Funding for materials and equipment for a Bridgwater based Rangers unit
  • Bay Centre, Burnham-on-Sea: £850 – Funding towards the cost of repainting a community building in Burnham-on-Sea
  • Blue Anchor Toilets CIC, Blue Anchor, nr Minehead: £742 – Funding towards the cost of installing economic taps for a public toilet near a West Somerset seaside attraction
  • The Bluebirds Theatre Company, Sedgemoor: £5,000 – Funding towards a travelling community theatre project in Sedgemoor and West Somerset
  • Bridgwater and Taunton Deaf Club: £10,000 – Funding for a group providing advocacy support for deaf people in Sedgemoor
  • Friends of North Petherton Library: £3,000 – Funding for replacement mobile bookshelves in a community library
  • Seed of Hope CIC, Bridgwater: £5,000 – Funding to support Bridgwater-based horticulture mental health support group
  • Social Circles CIC, Bridgwater: £4,024 – Funding towards the cost of new gardening equipment for a community gardening support group
  • Young Musical Theatre Company, Bridgwater: £5,000 – Funding towards the costs of scaffold and set equipment for a community theatre group

The HPC Community Fund’s Small Grants Programme awards grants of up to £5,000 – or up to £10,000 over three years – for charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises that normally operate on less than £100,000 per year. The Open Grants Programme is for larger applications, typically over £10,000. Visit for more details.

The HPC Community Fund is part of a wider £20 million commitment of funding, provided by EDF through Section 106 agreements, for communities that are affected by the development of the new nuclear power station, to promote their social, economic and environmental wellbeing and enhance their quality of life. Hundreds of projects have benefitted, and in total almost £13.3 million in grants have been awarded to date.

Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) is a charity that helps passionate people in Somerset change the world on their doorstep by funding local charities and inspiring local giving and philanthropy. They aim to build stronger communities in Somerset where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. They provide rewarding and impactful ways for donors to give through them, to the causes and places they care about most. Together, they fund amazing organisations and the passionate people that change lives every day.

Since SCF were founded in 2002 they’ve awarded more than £20 million in funding, changing thousands of lives across Somerset.

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