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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Highland Council Invites New Applications for The 2023/24 Round of The Nature Restoration Fund  

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The Highland Council is inviting communities to apply for a share of the 2023/24 allocation of the Nature Restoration Fund. 

Established by the Scottish Government, the Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) is a capital fund designed to help support projects that will deliver nature restoration, safeguard wildlife, and tackle the causes of biodiversity loss due to climate change.

Now in its third year, there is a commitment in the current Programme for Government for a multi-year fund to specifically fund nature restoration projects.

Most of the allocation is distributed by NatureScot delivered through the ‘Helping Nature’ and ‘Transforming Nature’ competitive funding streams. 

A direct allocation is also awarded to local authorities and national parks to deliver local projects. 

Chair of the Council’s Environment and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans said:

“The purpose of the Nature Restoration Fund is to support positive actions that can help nature recover. 

“As well as delivering projects on its own sites, the Council has also decided to do an open call for community groups to bid into the fund. 

“Grants between the value of £2,000 and £25,000 has been awarded to 50 projects throughout Highland over the last two years. 

“Projects included the creation of new wildflower meadow sites, tree planting initiatives, areas of wetland creation or new wildlife ponds, and projects to remove invasive non-native species to enhance local habitats for protected species.

“I am glad that we opened the fund to external groups and organisations. 

“It has been inspiring to see so many projects coming forward which shows that people all over Highland are driving local action against the climate crisis. 

“We have taken a slightly different approach this year in making the fund more flexible for applicants. 

“Please refer to the website for key dates but there will be three decision making rounds in which applicants can apply for funding. 

“The first deadline to apply is by 18 September for a decision around the end of October. 

“The fund will close to accept applications on 15 January 2024 unless funds are committed sooner. 

“Applicants are only required to complete the application form and provide some supporting documentation”.

The eligibility of the fund is broadly the same as previous years where there is a focus on outcomes which address the main drivers of the decline in biodiversity on land and sea. 

To deliver this aim, the fund has five strategic themes:

  • Habitat and species restoration – management for enhancement and connectivity
  • Freshwater restoration – including restoration of natural flows in rural catchments
  • Coastal and marine – initiatives which promote restoration recovery, enhancement or resilience
  • Control of invasive non-native species (INNS) – impacting on nature
  • Urban – enhancing and connecting nature across, and between, towns and cities.

Although not exclusively, this year there is a particular focus on establishing ‘Nature Networks’ to better connect areas for nature. 

Also known as ecological connectivity, it is provided by wildlife sites, corridors and stepping-stones, landscape features, watercourses, green and blue spaces that together form integrated ‘Nature Networks’.

Capital items that could form that basis for spend may include, but are not limited to:

  • Action for pollinators (equipment for maintaining and creating wildflower areas or verges including planting)
  • Improving condition and use of Local Nature Reserves (purchase and planting)
  • Developing a local ‘Nature Network’ through planting of wildlife corridors, removal of barriers to wildlife movement and pollinator planting
  • Greening active travel routes (creating wildflower areas or verges including planting)
  • Natural flood management actions such as connecting rivers with flood plains, pond or wetland creation, de-culverting, in-stream works for habitat and flow variability
  • Removal of invasive non-native species (INNS) to improve the biodiversity value of the remaining habitat.  INNS removal projects must be sustainable beyond the funding period and that there is a plan in place to manage sites thereafter.
  • Habitat and species enhancement works using native stock, enhancing natural coastal defences through marram, addressing coastal squeeze.

All projects should be completed by the end of June 2024.

The minimum grant support available is £2,000 and the maximum is £25,000.

Applications are welcomed from constituted community groups; public sector bodies; charities; voluntary and social enterprises; co-operatives and community ownership initiatives; development trusts.

Applicants are reminded to read all the information on the website and guidance notes particularly around the Fair Work First requirements. 

Fair Work First is the Scottish Government’s policy for driving high quality and fair work across the labour market in Scotland. 

This is increasingly being implemented to grants, other funding and contracts being awarded across the public sector. 

All applicants must provide a signed statement to evidence that their organisation is committed to advancing the ‘Real Living Wage’ and ‘Effective Voice’ criteria. 

Applications cannot progress without a signed statement. 

For full information and further guidance please visit: www.highland.gov.uk/naturerestorationfund

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