Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Heritage Lottery Fund

1. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) welcomes the Natural Environment White Paper and its ambition in strengthening connections between people and nature. HLF has invested over £390 million on natural heritage since 1994 and around 25% of our annual budget of £250 million goes to landscape and biodiversity projects. All our grants over £50,000 deliver learning outcomes and either or both physical conservation works and community participation. We have had particular success and experience in stimulating a renaissance of the UK’s public parks, developing innovative landscape-scale partnerships and funding delivery of over 2,600 nature conservation projects.

2. Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs)—we support the initiative to work at a landscape scale but suggest the £7.5 million budget for 12 initial NIAs will be insufficient to make an impact . Since 2004 HLF has invested around £66 million in 45 Landscape Partnership projects delivering landscape-scale conservation to areas of between 20 and 200 kms square. If match funding is included we estimate an average scheme cost of around £1.7m per Landscape Partnership scheme which is obviously more than the £625,000 per scheme proposed for NIAs. We are aware that there are already 100 existing Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes and around 80 RSPB Futurescapes, as well as our own Landscape Partnerships. We suggest DEFRA might focus on better coordination, mapping and support of existing schemes, with NIAs used to focus on much larger geographic scale interventions.

3. Green Flag Awards scheme—we support Commitment 66. Green Flag Awards are currently funded by DCLG but only until September 2012. Beyond that the scheme’s future is in doubt. A nationally promoted quality standard for public parks is paramount to helping park managers maintain high standards of maintenance required to promote use and deliver benefits such as health, quality of life and tranquillity. The Green Flag Awards scheme needs to be refreshed and maintained as a national programme supported by Government and all local authorities. The White Paper extols the values of green space but does not include any proposal to make provision of quality public green space a statutory requirement for local authorities. Without such a statutory requirement it is likely that those communities with the poorest provision will continue to suffer. Recent evidence from parks charity GreenSpace shows that many public parks are facing greater cuts to their services than those faced by local authorities as a whole. A particular casualty is likely to be staff posts associated with developing community activities such as volunteering, as well as those associated with professional services such as ecology, arboriculture and horticulture.

4. Funding—for HLF to assist delivery of net biodiversity gain partnership funding will be critical. We have reduced our match funding requirements to help applicants but sourcing match funding is increasingly challenging. It would help if the loss of funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund were reconsidered, and the flexibility and support given by DEFRA to applicants under EU programmes such as EU Life+ reviewed.

21 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012