A COVID-19 Recovery Fund of £375,000 has been approved by the South Downs National Park Authority to help support local communities and step up the National Park’s role as a ‘natural health service’.
Members of the National Park Authority voted to approve the release of funds at an Authority meeting.
The fund, from earmarked reserves, will be used to help support projects across the National Park as organisations and businesses make steps to move into the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also help to maximise opportunities for people to connect with the National Park and its many health and wellbeing benefits.
The funding has been split into five priority themes: landscape and biodiversity, cultural heritage, sustainable access, connecting people and communities, and economy and tourism, with an additional, smaller amount going towards engaging more people with the National Park during this unprecedented time. These priority themes together deliver on the two statutory Purposes of the National Park as set by Government:
Purpose 1: To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
Purpose 2: To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.
Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “People need National Parks now more than ever and I’m firmly of the belief that they have a vital job in the nation’s healing process through all their positive impacts on physical and mental health.
“The current situation is having a profound effect on South Downs communities, local businesses, farmers, landowners, museums and visitor destinations and these impacts are likely to continue for some time.
“Leading collaboration across partners in Hampshire and Sussex, the South Downs National Park Authority has an important role to play in supporting the recovery and helping to ensure that communities survive and thrive.
“It’s still early days and there are uncertain times ahead, but this Recovery Fund provides a positive step forward, laying the foundation to help revive communities amid an unprecedented challenge.
“Carefully-targeted interventions from the National Park Authority, working alongside other public bodies, may help to rebuild confidence and capacity. There may also be opportunities for the South Downs economy to become more sustainable and resilient post-pandemic, with longer-term interventions that support net zero carbon, local supply chains and help nature flourish.”
And Trevor added: “The creation of this Recovery Fund responds positively to the Government’s Landscapes Review last year. In essence, we want our most cherished landscapes like the South Downs to fulfil National Parks’ original mission for people – as places providing unrivalled opportunities for enjoyment and supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing.”
Funds will be disbursed through the Authority’s existing project allocation mechanisms – Theme Programme Boards. Each board will receive an additional £70,000 to help support projects. A further £25,000 has been allocated to help increase engagement with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certain projects may be prioritised for funding support, such as those helping partner organisations with under 49 employees or those partners not receiving other emergency funding. Priority will also be given to those projects that help deliver the National Park’s Partnership Management Plan 2020-2025, which includes outcomes around wildlife recovery, enabling more young people to access the National Park and making the National Park a better home for both people and nature.
The National Park Authority will be setting up a process in the coming weeks where organisations can make expressions of interest. A dedicated email address: email@example.com has been created and details will be posted on the Authority’s website: southdowns.gov.uk