An RSPB bid has secured a £650k cash award to benefit the local Dorset economy from the Coastal Communities Fund and kick-start new nature and people projects along the coast.
The grant is a major boost for people and wildlife and has been awarded to improve the facilities and visitor experience at wildlife attractions in Wareham, Weymouth and Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.
Sarah Webb, the RSPB’s Project Manager in Dorset said: “This grant is a huge boost for projects for the community and wildlife that we’ve been fundraising for. The South West trades on the quality of its natural environment and it’s great to see Dorset’s wildlife assets recognised for their potential to boost the year-round economy and create jobs.”
A visitor centre, shop and cafe will be developed at RSPB Arne, scheduled to open next year to provide a year-round, all-weather welcome for everyone.
At RSPB Radipole, new outdoor facilities will provide more fun for all the family, and a much valued community resource with an expanded outdoor cafe.
There will also be new events and activities, and volunteering and training opportunities developed as part of the project.
In total, nine jobs will be directly created by the project, with new visitor and volunteering opportunities providing a further boost to the local economy.
Mrs Webb said: “we are really looking forward to starting work on improving facilities at Arne and Radipole, and working with partners and volunteers in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch to develop more opportunities for people to get out and connected with nature.”
The RSPB welcomes the publication of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan today.
The national wildlife charity, which manages 1750 acres of land in the flood-affected area, has been involved in an advisory role in the plan’s development.
Mark Robins, speaking for the RSPB in the South West; said: “This is a unique opportunity to build a brighter future for this special place and its communities, by putting nature as a key element at the heart of its recovery.
“There is a growing consensus around a common vision for the Levels. One that by 2030 sees the area as a thriving, nature-rich wetland landscape, with grassland farming taking place on the majority of the land. The impact of extreme weather events is being reduced by land and water management in both the upper catchments and the flood plain and by greater community resilience.
“The plan published today is a step in this direction. However, we need to make sure good words translate into real change, as a matter of urgency.
“It’s good to read that we must increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, businesses, communities, and wildlife by maximising the benefits from catchment sensitive farming. But will it translate it real change at the scale of what’s needed? Are we prepared to see a significant percentage of land in the catchment managed sensitively to enable flood reduction? And here nature is a real ally – we believe this, but do others want to change? Surely everyone agrees that a return to “business as usual” is not enough after the tragic events of the last few months.
“Government has a big choice, right now, in implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) package which must give Somerset the opportunity to do more to make the land and farming more resilient to floods. The plan does signal that this year Defra will be securing flood risk benefits in CAP implementation – this is a really important step if the government make the right choices.
“It’s good to read that we must make the most of special characteristics of the Levels, including wildlife, but most of the key opportunities for doing this are once again parked as longer term choices. Done well wildlife can help make the case for investment in the Levels.
“It’s good to read that there will strong local leadership, supported by local partners and communities. But we’ve heard this so many times over the past few decades. Something strong really needs to emerge now, or the opportunity for a better future will be squandered once again.
“The RSPB stands ready to be really constructive, and to work with all parties for genuine change. Real leadership is absolutely key to this.
“The plan signals solutions which are good for people, good for the environment and good for business.”
“However is there enough momentum for change; for action on the scale necessary for a safer, more resilient and brighter future for the Levels?”