Northern Ireland

Natural Environment Fund opens for applications

Mournes
Image caption The new fund replaces the Natural Heritage Grants Programme

A new £1.25m fund for environmental groups has opened for applications.

About 50 organisations had been told in March their funding was to be cut after a reduction of more than 10% in the Department of the Environment's budget.

However, the new Natural Environment Fund, using revenue raised by the carrier bag levy, will be available to some of the groups that lost funding.

Environment minister Mark H Durkan said it would "help protect our landscape, species and access to the countryside".

Competitive

"My department has suffered a higher percentage of cuts than any other department," he said.

"I am determined to ensure that the carrier bag levy monies are used to best effect.

"I continue my pledge to do what I can and try and lessen the pain for environment groups as much as possible."

The fund replaces the Natural Heritage Grants Programme, which was worth about £2m a year.

Mr Durkan said groups must "demonstrate value for money which will be of significant benefit to our natural environment".

He said it would be a competitive process, and "co-operation among groups will play a big part".

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