The partners programme provides funding to projects carried out by wildlife organisations which will conserve and enhance biodiversity in our region. The programme has been running since 1998 and we are now in the fourth phase of the programme which will finish in March 2015. Phase five will run from April 2015 to March 2020 and will for the first time feature a small grants scheme (funding projects between £2500 to £5000) in addition to the larger longer term funding we offer.
We decided that funding expert conservation organisations to carry out biodiversity work in the Wessex Water region was a good way of achieving effective outcomes on the ground that would stand the test of time. Phases 1 & 2 of the Partners Programme focussed on work for a set of species and habitats which were identified as being threatened or declining or had a UKBAP action plan. Helped by a range of organisations, we then set targets for each species and habitat, in line with the UKBAP.
From Phase 3 of the partners programme onwards, we have supported projects that met both the aims of the UKBAP/Biodiversity 2020 and the Water Framework Directive. In particular, the programme funds biodiversity projects of a river or marine nature: this could be species or survey work; habitat creation or restoration work; or more strategic work focussed on enhancing existing biodiversity or promoting wider conservation.
We have devised a set of criteria that helped us decide which projects should receive funding. To qualify projects had to demonstrate that:
they met Wessex Water / regional / national objectives
consultation with key agencies would take place
the populations / sites involved were important and a difference was likely to be made
there were plans for monitoring and dissemination of findings
transferable lessons might be identified
alternative funding, if available, was indicated
there was a defined business plan and likely financial sustainability after Wessex Water funds cease.
For the launch year of the partners programme (1998-99), Wessex Water secured landfill tax funding via Entrust and UK Waste. This funding source was not available in subsequent years. However, recognising the value of the work that had been started, Wessex Water decided to continue to provide corporate funding. £150,000 was invested each year for the following three years up to autumn 2002, amounting to a total contribution of £476,000 during phase one. During phase 2 (2003-2005) we provided funding of £50,000 annually which has continued in Phase 3 (2006-2009) but has risen to £70,000 annually for phase 4.
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