22 March 2012
Community groups, conservationists and charities from across the country are meeting today to share their experiences and expertise gained through the Big Lottery Fund’s Access to Nature scheme.
Launched in 2008, and administered by Natural England on behalf of a partnership of 11 organisations, local groups and communities have shared £28.75 million to help them make a real difference on the ground. Access to Nature has funded some life-changing projects that are giving people greater access to the natural environment.
By 2014 we expect 1.7 million people - in urban, rural and coastal communities across England - to have benefited from improved opportunities to experience and enjoy the natural environment; and greater opportunities to gain new skills.
These locally-led initiatives have provided training and qualifications for young people struggling to get a start, and those going through tough times or recovering from ill-health - equipping them with new skills for a fresh beginning. They’ve mobilised local people to transform parks and gardens, wasteland and scrub – helping them reclaim their neighbourhood. And through innovative outreach and information projects, children have been inspired to discover the wonder of nature and put local people back in touch with the natural world.
The Government’s Natural Environment White Paper published last year says one of the top three priorities for nature conservation is to reconnect people to the natural world. One of the best ways to conserve the natural environment is to get more people involved - more people out enjoying the natural world, shaping local landscapes, conserving nature, designing the services they need and putting local people in charge of the big decisions.
Big Lottery Fund recently awarded Natural England a further £1.36 million for established projects to continue their good work in the tough economic environment.
Board Member Andy Wilson said at a meeting for Access to Nature projects in Leeds today; “The only way we’ll safeguard the natural world in the long run is to see more people, doing more, for the natural world more often. Thanks to Big Lottery Fund’s generosity and vision in supporting the scheme, and to the hundreds of local groups, who’ve grasped the opportunity with both hands. You’ve thrown open the doors of the natural world; broken down barriers and won new friends and equipped people with new skills.”