At a ceremony today near Liverpool, Richard Simmonds, chairman of the Countryside Commission, announced that applications are now being invited from local communities wishing to bid for the £10 million that is on the table for the provision of new 'breathing spaces'.
Funding is coming from National Lottery cash, thanks to a grant from the Millennium Commission. It will enable the commission to help local communities create at least 250 green spaces by the year 2000.
Mr Simmonds said: 'A huge amount of interest has already been shown in the idea. It is a real chance for people to work together for the future well being of their local community'.
Already the commission is progressing with 23 pilot schemes in various parts of the country. Some of them are as large as 40 acres, while others are quite small.
The site of the ceremony today - a large disused sealed concrete reservoir at Bootle, owned by North West Water Ltd - is a contender for one of the new sites.
'Any suitable piece of land close to areas of population may be considered,' said Mr Simmonds. 'Land will be purchased on the open market, if the price is right. There will be no compulsory purchases. Alternatively, land might be provided as a gift.
'What use is made of the land will be a matter for the local community to decide. Some may incorporate areas for community activities. Others may have meadows, woodland or even ponds and marshland. We see them not just as a breath of fresh air for people, but also as a benefit to the landscape and wildlife. They will serve to mark and celebrate the new Millennium.
'Quite clearly, there will be more and more pressure to develop land as the years go by. Areas where people can relax; play with the children or to simply unwind from the stresses of everyday life will be even more important. Millennium Greens will provide such a safeguard.'
Simon Knight of North West Water Ltd, said: 'We have been inspired by the commission's idea of Millennium Greens. It is an excellent initiative and we are happy for the Breeze Hill site to be considered if it meets the needs of the local community.'
Millennium Commission chair Virginia Bottomley said:
'Millennium Greens will provide a wonderful focus for communities as we approach the new millennium. We all need open spaces and these greens are an excellent way for millennium money to improve the environment and community life.'
The Countryside Commission has established a special unit where advice and information can be obtained.
Applications, or requests for information, can be addressed to Millennium Greens National Project Team, 1st Floor, Vincent House, Tindal Bridge, 92-93 Edward Street, Birmingham B1 2RA. Tel:0121 233 9399. Fax: 0121 233 9286.