LEP launches £1 million loan fund for natural projects

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched a £1 million fund for local businesses and organisations to develop and finance natural capital projects that support the natural environment, whilst at the same time providing wider economic benefits.

The Natural Capital Demonstrator (NCD) Fund is available for capital expenditure on a loan basis. This funding approach has been designed to test a new way of financing the protection and enhancement of the area’s natural assets.

Natural capital is the sum of our ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, soils, minerals, air and our seas. These are all elements of nature that either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country at large. They do this in many ways but chiefly by providing food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards.

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the SW LEP, says: “The Heart of the South West area is rich with natural capital assets, which we need to continue to look after and enhance. This fund has been created to ensure we explore new ways of protecting and restoring these assets whilst also using them to increase both social and economic benefit.

“It is a trailblazer model and we are looking for demonstrator projects that show the concept of natural capital in action and help develop understanding of how we can look at the protection of the environment and economic growth together. As something that can often see conflicts, we are keen to explore ways to satisfy both needs and overcome these tensions.”

The LEP is hoping the fund will be able to support a portfolio of projects that will deliver new methodologies towards natural capital that can be replicated in other areas and scaled up.

There is a two-stage process to apply for the fund. Initially, a short Expression of Interest must be submitted by April 8th. These will then be shortlisted and projects moving to the next stage may be able to apply for a share of £20,000 to help develop the full business case. The business case must be submitted by June 30th and the decision on the successful applications will be made in early September.

The fund aims to support the Heart of the South West’s clean growth priority and is aligned to the Government’s 25-year Environment Strategy, and Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

To register interest for the workshop or find out more, contact Anne-Marie Spalding via email: amspalding@somerset.gov.uk

To find out more, visit the LEP’s website: www.heartofswlep.co.uk/growing-our-economy/investing-in-natural-capital/

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