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Lifeline for environmental groups

Published 12/05/2015

Mark H Durkan said £4.2 million raised through the carrier bag levy would be used to ease the pain of organisations whose funding was cut in the Stormont budget
Mark H Durkan said £4.2 million raised through the carrier bag levy would be used to ease the pain of organisations whose funding was cut in the Stormont budget

Struggling environmental groups have been thrown a lifeline by Northern Ireland's Environment Minister.

Mark H Durkan said £4.2 million raised through the carrier bag levy would be used to ease the pain of organisations whose funding was cut in the Stormont budget.

He said: " My department has suffered a higher percentage of cuts than any other department. I am therefore determined to ensure the carrier bag levy money will be used to best effect."

Mr Durkan was speaking during Question Time at the Assembly.

The estimated net income for 2015/16 is £4.2 million, he said.

Around £2.15 million has been allocated for environmental grant schemes; £520,000 has been set aside for a natural heritage grants fund and £600,000 will go towards a community waste fund.

There will also be a £300,000 contribution for local clean-up and air quality grants scheme.

Funding for groups tackling acute priorities such as safeguarding valuable sites and landscapes; protecting species and encouraging access to the countryside is to be increased to £1.25 million.

Of the £800,000 unallocated levy money, £300,000 is being used to set up a Challenge Fund that can be accessed by schools and community groups while £300,000 will go towards listed buildings projects.

Earlier this year Mr Durkan was told to reduce his spending by £12.4 million - almost 11% - during the next 12 months.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said the budget allocation had been "brutal".

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