Yesterday we blogged (here) about the HH southern England ‘reintroduction’ project team and the proposed project timeline.
That project timeline, which was drafted in May 2016, made it clear that a funding bid was going to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). However, more recent documentation, released under FoI, suggests that an HLF bid may be trickier than the project team had first thought.
We know the project team was discussing a bid to the HLF right from the start. At a project team meeting in May 2016, Jeff Knott (RSPB) reported to the group that as far as the RSPB was concerned, there were no issues with the project team pursuing a separate LIFE bid for the southern reintroduction, but that extending the scope of the RSPB’s current HH LIFE project, or developing some other formal engagement between the two projects, was not possible.
In July 2016, Adrian Jowitt (Natural England) said that an HLF bid was the “preferred funding route”. However, by that time he’d also had discussions with Natural England’s external funding team to seek advice about the specific process and timescale needed for an HLF bid. He shared a document with the project team, summarising these discussions. That document can be downloaded here: natural-england-advice-on-hlf-application
This document provides the suggested timeline for an HLF bid, but what’s of more interest are the notes to the project team at the bottom of the document. Here’s what those notes say:
“Because hen harriers are such a controversial subject HLF will be very wary of this bid. We will need to provide clear evidence that there is strong support from stakeholders for the project.”
“Our estimates of project cost [£500k] have so far focused on the ecological/practical elements. We need to consider the costs associated with the public engagement elements of the project – these may be quite considerable. Advice from the EF [external funding] team is that the total costs will be in excess of £2 million“.
Now, we know from the FoI material we’ve got, that there is mixed support for the project from various landowners / shoot managers in Wiltshire and Exmoor. It definitely can’t be described as being ‘strong support’ (more on that in another blog). Although, bear in mind that we are working from ‘old’ material – our FoI request covered documents from January 2016 to 28 November 2016. Things may well have moved on since then – we’ve submitted more FoI requests which may reveal that more landowners have since been talked around. We’ll see.
Anyway, back to the FoI material we do have – at a project team meeting in October 2016, the issue of funding was raised again. It would appear from what was discussed at that meeting that an HLF bid may no longer be the “preferred funding route”, perhaps because of the lack of support from certain landowners / shooters. Here’s what was said at that project team meeting in October:
‘A number of potential funding routes were discussed, including the possibility that some conservation trusts may be interested in funding this work. We agreed to postpone the decision on which funding route to pursue until the informal consultations were over and we had been able to fully gage the level of support‘.
As of November 2016, the likely success of an HLF bid looks decidedly ropey. We’ll see in due course if an HLF bid is still on the cards and if it is, many of us will be making contact with the HLF and asking the sort of questions that Mark Avery has suggested we ask (see his blog on this subject here).