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Minister visits local groups to benefit from carrier bag levy funding

Envirnonment Minister Mark H Durkan has visited south Armagh and the Newry areas to see for himself some of the work being done by local conservation groups who have benefitted from funding paid out from the carrier bag levy.

Over £250,000 was awarded to 33 groups this week and Minister Durkan has commended the efforts of all involved in helping to improve the local environment.

He visited the Ring of Gullion Area of Natural Beauty group who were awarded funding in June through the Natural Environment Fund.

The Minister also took the opportunity to visit two of the three community groups in Newry and South Armagh who will benefit from the DOE’s Challenge Fund.

He met with The Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red Squirrel Group, and Ballyholland Sunshine Club, to see at first-hand how the funds will be spent.

The Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red squirrel group’s project will encourage more pine marten numbers in the area by the erection of artificial pine marten dens, this will benefit the red squirrel population.

The Ballyholland Sunshine Club project ‘Bring the Past to Life’ will have substantial multi-age volunteer involvement to increase biodiversity and transform a disused piece of land at the GAA club, for use by all the community.ringofgullion-

A third project that has been awarded funding from the Challenge fund, the County Armagh Wildlife Society (CAWS), which is based in Loughgall, will produce an ID guide for 24 species of declining plants.

Commending the groups Minister Durkan said: “It is tremendous to see people in Newry and South Armagh coming together to produce innovative schemes to enhance their local environment. I commend them for it. I am particularly delighted that I was able to support the Ring of Gullion AONB through the Natural Environment Fund.

“Their work in improving community involvement in enhancing the area is invaluable.

“Recently I announced that 33 community groups across the North were successful in attaining Challenge Funding for their projects. Three groups in Newry and South Armagh have been successful.

“When I launched the fund, a key requirement for me was that not only would the local environment improve, but that there had to be a tangible benefit for the local community.

“The Newry and South Armagh groups are delivering that in spades. Derelict land will bloom. People, often vulnerable, will blossom, with new skills.”

The Minister continued: “I have pledged that all money raised from our 5p levy on carrier bags would be ploughed back into the environment . The Challenge Fund and the Natural Environment Fund are two key ways of doing that.”

The Natural Environment Fund and Challenge Fund are created via receipts from the levy on carrier bags.

The Ring of Gullion Area of Natural Beauty group was successful in applying for £49,000 of Natural Environment Fund monies, earlier in the year. This funding will facilitate the delivery of a management action plan and increase the opportunities for community involvement in enhancing the AONB.

Three projects in the Newry and South Armagh area were successful in attaining Challenge Funding in the 2015/16 financial year.

The Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red squirrel groups, Newry, was awarded £5,841, the County Armagh Wildlife Society (CAWS), Loughgall,  was granted £7,442 and the Ballyholland Sunshine Club, Newry, got £6,800.

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