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National Lottery funding to help the Aire Rivers Trust prevent sewage pollution in their local river

A river conservation trust, which has seen sewage and construction site spills devastate natural habitat along the River Aire, has been awarded £20,000 of National Lottery funding to help ensure such incidents never happen again. 

Aire Rivers Trust, based in Bradford, has received the grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, to recruit volunteers up and down the river to monitor its health and identify incidents of contamination. 

The project reflects The National Lottery Community Fund’s purpose to support the creation of resilient communities that are more inclusive and environmentally sustainable, outlined in its strategy ‘It starts with community’

Aire Rivers Trust is one of almost 2,400 charities and community groups across England to have been awarded a total of almost £118 million of National Lottery funding over the last three months*. 

The project will combine the Trust’s long-term team of 20 volunteers, who count river bugs each month, with large rounds of volunteering that focus on single issues - such as hidden pipes that flow into the river and non-native plants that smother native vegetation. 

The organisation hopes to improve the river’s health by extending its volunteer network along the 92 miles of river. 

Simon Watts, Operations Manager at Aire Rivers Trust, said: “As a Rivers Trust we’re ideally placed to improve our rivers. 

“River Aire Pollution Spotters not only help find polluters, but also help find locations where improving our river could make the biggest difference. This funding will enable us to continue to offer support to our monitors and bring together more volunteers to identify and challenge incidents of pollution along our river.” 

Recent activities by the group include an ‘Outfall Safari’, which saw 60 volunteers walk along the river, looking for rogue pipes that may be spilling pollution from homes and businesses. This resulted in over 600 potential sources of pollution being recorded, with the most severe of these being reported to the Environment Agency. 

Simon added: “Sadly, poor water quality in the River Aire limits its potential for recreation, with incidents of kayakers feeling unwell being a huge cause for concern. We won’t fix this in a year, or even several, but one day, we’d love to see significant change. 

“Thank you to The National Lottery Community Fund and National Lottery players, this grant will allow us to greatly expand our volunteering network and better understand the river and how best we can safeguard it so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.” 

Like many groups across the country, Aire Rivers Trust has benefitted from the recent change to The National Lottery Community Fund’s flagship funding programme, National Lottery Awards for All. 

So far almost 1,000 charities and community groups have benefitted from a new maximum award of £20,000 and a two-year grant term, signifying the funder’s ambition to invest most in places, people and communities experiencing poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. 

Emma Corrigan, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re delighted to award funding to an impressive range of local groups and projects like the Aire Rivers Trust, all supporting their communities in many different ways. It’s great to see the passion and dedication of staff and volunteers coming together to strengthen society and improve the lives of local people. 

“The change we’ve made to National Lottery Awards for All shows our commitment to supporting grassroots action. We’re pleased to see many projects like this already taking the opportunity to go bigger and bolder with their plans to help communities come together and be environmentally sustainable.”   

National Lottery players raise over £30 million a week for good causes across the UK. Thanks to them, last year The National Lottery Community Fund was able to distribute over half a billion pounds (£615.4 million) of life-changing funding to communities. 

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Notes to Editors

* These figures are for funding awarded from 25th November 2023 – 24th February 2024.

About The National Lottery Community Fund  

We are the largest non-statutory community funder in the UK – community is at the heart of our purpose, vision and name. 

We support activities that create resilient communities that are more inclusive and environmentally sustainable and that will strengthen society and improve lives across the UK. 

We’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to work closely with Government to distribute vital grants and funding from key Government programmes and initiatives.   

As well as responding to what communities tell us is important to them, our funding is focused on four key missions, supporting communities to: 

1. Come together 

2. Be environmentally sustainable 

3. Help children and young people thrive 

4. Enable people to live healthier lives. 

Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, we distribute around £500 million a year through 10,000+ grants and plan to invest over £4bn of funding into communities by 2030. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.   

National Lottery players raise over £30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. Since The National Lottery began in 1994, £47 billion has been raised and more than 670,000 individual grants have been made across the UK - the equivalent of around 240 National Lottery grants in every UK postcode district.

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