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Funding for natural capital projects

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Six local projects have been awarded funding through Devon County Council’s Natural Capital Challenge Fund.

The £300,000 grant funding pilot scheme launched last year as part of Devon’s £6 million recovery programme, which aims to provide help and support in four key areas: small and medium enterprises, employment and skills, the green recovery, and the hardest hit towns and communities.

The Natural Capital Challenge Fund (NCCF) was created to stimulate the county’s post-Covid recovery through investment in the Natural Capital sector. The projects supported will contribute to job and skills creation, while improving and safeguarding our local environment. It supports the wider aims of Team Devon’s Economic Recovery Prospectus and the Devon Carbon Plan; boosting our economy while realising Devon’s Net Zero ambitions.

The fund was heavily oversubscribed, with more than £1 million worth of application bids received for the new grant fund, showcasing the strength and potential of Devon’s natural capital sector.

The six projects which successfully bid for a share of the funding will create over 25 jobs, more than 360 training places and will capture and store more than 1,400 tonnes of carbon in the funding period alone, with benefits continuing to accrue well into the future.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“We’re blessed with amazing coast and countryside in Devon and we should make the most of that to be at the forefront of the UK’s green economy. As well as providing positive improvements for our local environment, these six projects are delivering jobs and providing people with new skills which could set them on a new career path. It’s great to see that these schemes will restore and regenerate land, which is vital as we look to achieve net zero carbon targets across the county.”

Devon County Council is proud to be supporting the following projects:

Apricot Centre CIC – School of Regenerative Land Based Business. The Apricot Centre will create a school offering accredited training to fill the skills gap in sustainable land management organic food production to create lifelong employment in the agricultural sector. The project will also enable 430 tonnes of carbon sequestration a year, verified by the Soil Association.

Rachel Phillips, Education and Wellbeing Manager, Apricot Centre, said: “With NCCF funding, the Apricot Centre has been able to offer more than 20 fully funded accredited spaces for the Level 3 in Regenerative Land Based Studies course. This course has not only connected fresh growers to the agricultural sector in Devon but has also created a network of regenerative farms in Devon wanting to help train up the future farmers.”

Brickhouse Vineyard Ltd – Soil and Soul: Regenerative Agriculture at Brick House. Gardeners and apprentices will convert degraded pasture into productive agriculture and wildlife areas, restoring native woodland and wildlife ponds. The project at Brickhouse Vineyard aims to create a sustainable regenerative agriculture business, connect with the local community, and increase biodiversity.

Matthew Szczepura, Director, Brickhouse Vineyard, said: “We have an objective to demonstrate that we can produce more food on less land, and at the same time build soil health.”

Devon Wildlife Trust – Northern Devon Natural Solutions will establish six new posts to support local landowners, farms and smallholdings with rewilding initiatives and habitat restoration.

Russell Luscombe, Fundraising Officer, Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “Devon Wildlife Trust is grateful for the NCCF grant towards our new project. This will create healthier ecosystems and address economic needs in this significantly deprived area, advising 100 land managers and supporting over 400 people to learn new skills.”

EcoLogic Consultant Ecologists – East Devon Conservation Grazing will employ and train staff to establish a nature conservation grazing and rewilding enterprise in partnership with the RSPB and East Devon District Council’s Countryside Service. NCCF funding will provide assistance during a difficult time due to the removal of farm subsidies.

Ian Crowe, Consultant, EcoLogic, said: “Working on sites of high nature conservation value across East Devon, we hope to pass on skills and knowledge to a new generation of conservation graziers who will help fulfil the need for these services as we move into a post-covid economy in our countryside.”

Running Deer CIC – Countryside Worker Skills is a training programme in Moretonhampstead delivering countryside management skills and accredited qualifications free of charge to people not in education, employment or training.

Joanna Winterburn, Managing Director, Running Deer, said: “This grant will enable us to deliver a comprehensive programme of training courses that will reduce the skills gap for people facing challenges and barriers to work, including those displaced by the pandemic.”

Coldharbour Mill Trust Ltd – Culm Valley Rural Skills is a training programme to help inactive and unemployed people in Uffculme and Culm Valley area to gain rural skills to support their transition towards getting a job, in turn regenerating and restoring an area of land. It supports those worst affected by the pandemic and engages them in the labour market.

Martin Halse, Chief Executive, Coldharbour Mill, said: “This funding enables the expansion of the rural skills programme which we launched in 2021. It allows us to develop a larger skills and development programme included as part of our Culm Valley Rural Skills training programme, which utilises the Estate of Coldharbour Mill to make a real impact on people’s lives, combating isolation and inactivity, building confidence and creating the possibility of future employment through recognised qualifications, skills acquisition and work place experience. Last year some 24 attendees took part with over 35% gaining full time employment, and a further 55% taking up volunteering roles. The 2022 programme aims to increase participation to a minimum of 40 candidates.”