Seeking a step change in nature conservation

15 Jul 2011 04:11 PM

This week Defra launches a new grant scheme to establish Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs). The £7.5m programme is being administered by Natural England.

Nature Improvement Areas are large, discrete areas that will deliver a step change in nature conservation, where a local partnership has a shared vision for their natural environment. The partnership will plan and deliver significant improvements for wildlife and people through the sustainable use of natural resources, restoring and creating wildlife habitats, connecting local sites and joining up local action.

The Nature Improvement Areas Pilot Programme was announced in the Natural Environment White Paper last month and is based on proposals contained in an independent review of England’s wildlife sites, Making Space for Nature. The programme was established to help address ecological restoration as part of a series of actions at a landscape scale to improve biodiversity, ecosystems and our connections with the natural environment.

The grant scheme is being administered by Natural England on behalf of a consortium of partners: the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

Helen Philips, Chief Executive of Natural England said: “Nature Improvement Areas present a tremendous opportunity to benefit people and wildlife. We look forward to a range of projects that will untap the potential for local communities, the private sector, the voluntary sector and government to work together in make a lasting difference to landscapes across the country”

It is anticipated that partnerships of NGO’s, land managers, local government agencies, business and community organisations will apply for the grants. To be successful a partnership will need to identify an area of between 10,000 and 50,000 hectares (by comparison the area of the Isle of Wight is 38,000 hectares) and demonstrate how a step change can be achieved in the success of nature conservation within the area. The first 12 pilot NIAs are due to be up and running by April 2012.

Staff within Natural England’s Landscape and Biodiversity Function, have been working tirelessly over the past few months to establish the criteria and application process for assessing grant bidders and to ensure that this all runs as smoothly as possible.

Further information

Full details of the NIA programme, including the application procedure, are available at www.naturalengland.org.uk/nia