Half a million pounds is to be pumped into almost 30 local environmental projects thanks to money raised by the plastic bag charge, Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced.
It brings the total distributed to almost 40 projects by the Environmental Fund (EF) to over £3million this year alone.
“I am delighted we are able to support and encourage more organisations and projects as they work to develop and enhance our environment such as the protection of native habitats and their wildlife” Minister McIlveen said during a meeting with many of the environmental groups.
“This additional £500,000 will go to a wide range of projects carrying out important work such as tackling marine and coastal litter, boosting the red squirrel population and promoting recycling” the Minister added.
Of the 37 organisations including Keep NI Beautiful, the RSPB and National Trust that have already benefited from EF funding this year, 19 will now receive this additional cash boost with nine new projects also benefiting from the scheme.
During her meeting with a large and wide range of environmental groups at Crawfordsburn Country Park, the Minister also announced she is planning to open the new Environmental Farming Scheme in early 2017.
“The multi-million pound Environmental Farming Scheme is an important part of our agricultural agenda and we are working hard to be able to open it for applications in February next year. Whilst funding for the EFS is not covered by the recent statement by Chancellor Philip Hammond, we are very much focused on securing the funding and implementing a well-focused scheme” Minister McIlveen explained.
The Minister also listened to the concerns the environmental groups had about future funding for the sector, the impact of Brexit and the difficult financial situation many are facing.
“The environmental sector, like DAERA, knows that challenging financial times are ahead. We all need to continue to look closely at what we do, and how we do it, to ensure we deliver efficiencies in the way we work, enhance partnership working and seek alternative sources of funding.
“Our environmental sector makes genuine positive differences across Northern Ireland to our rural and urban landscape and communities. They deliver much needed environmental improvements, education and support many of the Executive’s Programme for Government outcomes” the Minister added.
Craig McGuicken, Chief Executive of NI Environment Link, described the Environmental Funding cash boost as good news, saying: “The sector really welcomes this extra funding that the Minister has allocated. It will help environmental organisations across Northern Ireland to deliver a wide range of activities, bringing a diversity of benefits to the public.”
Following his presentation which gave Minister McIlveen an overview of the sector, Mr McGuicken said he looked forward to working with her and DAERA in the coming months and years.