New Environment fund opens for applications

May 4, 2015

Landscape Partnership Manager of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme, Darren Rice, has welcomed the announcement that a new £1.25m fund for environmental groups has opened for applications.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan announced the opening of the new Natural Environment Fund on Friday.  The scheme, which replaces the Natural Heritage Grants Programme is using revenue raised by the carrier bag levy to alleviate funding woes for some of the 50 organisations throughout Northern Ireland who lost funding after a reduction of more than 10% in the Department of the Environment’s budget.

Mr Durkan said groups must “demonstrate value for money which will be of significant benefit to our natural environment” and said it would be a competitive process for which “co-operation among groups will play a big part.”

The Ring of Gullion AONB was particularly affected by the cuts losing 100% of its NIEA funding.

Speaking to The Examiner about the new fund, Darren Rice said,

It’s welcome that we can re-apply for money we already secured. I would also like to thank everyone who signed our petition, and contacted their elected representatives about our situation. We were humbled by the responses.

“When we met the Minister, he said that the amount of correspondence he received was unprecedented. I believe this has helped to secure this new funding process.”

While welcoming the funding, Mr Rice pointed out that the group had already secured funding for 2014 – 2018 and that this application will only cover the nine months until March 2016.

“The real work will start in July to make sure that there is funding for AONBs going forward. The break up of the old Departments and formation of the new ones in 2016 will present real challenges for the environment, but also opportunities.

“As for the Natural Environment Fund, we will not know how much if any we will receive until the end of June – this puts a lot of pressure on our AONB Officer, and Officers in all the other eNGOs too.”