Nature funding on the rocks

Thursday 17th March 2011

The sands of time are running out for vital environmental funding as the Government looks to end the £35m Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) from April 2011.

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to reinstate the fund which, it says, is vital for local communities, enhancing the natural environment and people’s engagement with it.

The conservation organisation was able to invest more than £1m last year in local community initiatives after receiving ALSF funding for land purchase, skills training for volunteers, improvements to nature reserves, education centres, visitor facilities and more.

Whilst we understand the Government’s need to reduce the national debt, this is extremely disappointing news for local communities and for the natural environment

The ALSF – totalling £35m per year - aims to reduce the environmental impacts of aggregate extraction and deliver benefits to areas subject to these impacts. Defra has announced its intention to close the fund at the end of March 2011; a decision made as part of the Spending Review but there has been no consultation with stakeholders.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“The Aggregates Levy Sustainable Fund is a vital funding stream for voluntary organisations such as ours in our work to enhance the natural environment and people’s engagement with it. It also has the support of the aggregates industry and therefore fits well with the Government’s ‘Big Society’ concept and meets Defra’s stated objective to enhance the environment and biodiversity to improve quality of life.

“Whilst we understand the Government’s need to reduce the national debt, this is extremely disappointing news for local communities and for the natural environment. It will cut off a significant source of funding at a time when the challenges for local organisations are growing and the resources available decreasing.”

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on Defra to reinstate the ALSF and, in particular, the grant programme administered by Natural England. All 47 will be writing to MPs asking for their support, by appealing to Defra Ministers.