Thursday, 22 December 2011

And to all a good night!

At this point in time, FET considers itself to be very fortunate. In the last 12 months FET has been able, through your applications,  to become involved in projects that have, or will (and in no particular order);

            Renovated a large garden for public use.
            Upgraded Country access ways in several location.
            Create a new play, sensory and wildlife garden for a community to use.
            Perform habitat works on a local post industrial site for invertebrate life
            Renovate a much loved and used pedestrian footbridge
            Fight the incursion of invasive species in a local wooded glen

And that’s just the new allocations from the previous several months. Many projects have started and / or completed this year that FET was fortunate enough to be involved in.  

            Clearance of a major river system and it’s tributaries of materials that stopped migratory fish from reaching their spawning Grounds.
            Combating Rhododendron Ponticum in two large Falkirk woodlands.
            Pulling of Himalayan Balsam in a community woodland
            More countryside access creation and upgrading than you can shake a stick at.

Indeed the list goes on and on, as these are but a few examples of the work that’s either recently completed, is ongoing, or is about to start. We are particularly looking forward to the habitat enhancement of TWO of Falkirks Sites of Specific Scientific Interest.

The Board of FET would like to continue to encourage enquiries and applications to both Main and Small Grant systems, so as always, if you have an idea, please get in touch with us!

A Special thanks goes out to Avondale Environmental Ltd, the source of the Land fill Community Funding, to Falkirk Council, our main partners; to all the organisations that have assisted with the projects, but most especially to YOU who have brought these projects to life in the first place.

Finally I can at last say that the new FET website is up and running – thanks to the good people at BTCV Scotland who took on the job of re-designing and then coding the new site layout and content. Many thanks to you – and you know who you are!
Click the link below to check out our modernised, leaner and meaner FET website!

It only remains for The Board of FET, and of course, myself, to wish you all a very happy festive period!

Best Yuletide Regards
Art Berg

Friday, 2 December 2011

It's getting cold and dark out there - Time to get busy

As the cold weather starts to take a grip, and we move into mid winters dark, thinking about conservation or environmental project work might seem a little redundant. Or just plain foolish! What can we do out there between now and the advent of spring? Suprisingly, an awful lot.

As the plants and trees reconsolidate after the bud, growth, seed & fruit cycle, so can we. Now is the time to plan out that action that you recognised as needing done in the warmer months. Perhaps you noted a stand of Japanese knotweed or Himalyan Balsam near where you walk your dog that requires springtime attention. Maybe you noticed that a hedgeline had died right back and could use a bit of TLC, or that a local pond is now completely clogged up with rubbish and weeds.

As we move our leisure activities indoors to community halls, have a good nose around to see what needs to be tackled. You may notice that the hall toilets aren’t wheelchair friendly, or the kitchen needs an upgrade, the roof is leaking or any one of a thousand other things. Items of maintenance that if left unattended will eventually cost a lot more or will even shut the hall down.

The planning phase of any environmental project is quite involved and requires thought, consultation, collection of prices and the gathering of friendly partners.

There are habitat surveys to be quoted against and funding sought. There are consents to be garnered, deals to be struck, and plans to be drawn up. There is, in fact, much to do in winter.

Resolve what you ought to do. Do, without fail, what you have resolved” - Benjamin Franklin

There is no argument that for many environmental projects the late spring to mid autumn are the best times to do project actions. As with most things 90 per cent of doing a really good job is in the preparation.

Falkirk Environment Trust is now looking forward to a new year of Environmental Project activity in 2012, and as such we are inviting our next group of applicants (ie YOU) from the communities of Falkirk, to contact the FET Development Manager (ie ME) with project ideas to be brought forward at the March and June 2012 Board of Directors meetings. We are particularly welcoming smaller actions more suited to Community Groups. So don’t be shy, lets hear your ideas!

If you cannot wait for spring, and are feeling up to the challenge of winter conservation tasks  there are still a number of actions best suited to winter in Central Scotland. Examples include  rhododendron ponticum clearance in our woodlands (as you my know FET has declared war on alien invasive species, and the local rhodies infestations are first for a kicking!). Rebuilding drystane dykes as biodiversity habitats, willow spiling – building woven willow fences to retain exposed riverbanks, pond works -  ponds are dormant no, so winter is the best time. Don’t forget, there’s always path-works to be done, and the absolute best time for litter picks is in the winter months when all the vegetation has died back.

BTCV Scotland operate a series of midweek group activities that run right through the winter. I have included their December and January timetables below, just in case you feel like getting out there and doing some real environmental good over the winter.

Upcoming BTCV Scotland Conservation dates in Falkirk area;
6th-8th Ladywell Park Bannockburn, Willow Spiling (River height permiting)
13th-15th Ladywell Park Bannockburn, Willow Spiling (River height permiting)
10th-12th,  Muiravonside Park, Standburn, Avondale Quarry, Pond Clearence
26th Westquarter Glen, Rhododendron Ponticum Clearance
9th, 23rd, 28th & 29th Westquarter Glen, Rhododendron Ponticum Clearance
1st & 5th-8th, Westquarter Glen, Rhododendron Ponticum Clearance
12th-15th, Muiravonside Park, Standburn, Avondale Quarry, Pond Clearence
19th-22nd & 26th-29th, Westquarter Glen, Rhododendron Poticum Clearance
Note: all dates and projects subject to change

If interested give will Smith or Alistair Lawson a call at BTCV Scotland on 01786 479697

And whatever you do, don’t forget to feed our indigenous birds that stick around through the harsh Scottish Winter – The subject of a future blog I think.

Thanks for reading

Arthur Berg
Development Manager
Falkirk Environment Trust
01324 504816

Friday, 14 October 2011

Latest FET News October 2011

Hello all - I must first of all apologise for the lack of input from us here at FET over the summer months - It's a super busy time and it was truly difficult to find the opportunity to write for this Blog. I will do better in future!

With that said, I wanted to catch you all up on whats been happening here at FET;

Firstly, I would like to thank all the participants and guests of the "Aliens Amongst Us" Non native invasive species Expo day for making it a fantastic and memorable occasion. It was a great chance for me to network with all the groups and some of the key players from the likes of SNH and SEPA. The organisers foolishly asked me to do a seminar, and so my poor audiences had to listen to me ranting on for a good 40 minutes, but I think no major harm was done. FET was pleased to partially sponsor the event, and we hope that similar Expos will be held in Falkirk area in the future. A number of other councils sent representatives to find out what we are up to, and thats got to be a good thing!

 A special thanks goes out to Communities Along the Carron for putting the Event togeather, and to Falkirk Council for co-hosting and co-funding the event.

Next, there is a need to share FET's current situation. We have, in the past been in a position to make grants of up to £50,000 each, and in some cases we took on sole funding responsibility, or at least the lions share. Recently the board has decided that we will require all future applications to show a minimum of 50% match funding.  The bottom line is that we will be looking favourably at projects that use the FET allocated funds to lever in other funders. Whilst FET still is financially strong, we are not exempt from the current financial climate. New guidance will be issued as soon as possible.

 As always, if you want to bring forward an application, please talk to me first. Contact details can be found  to the right of this blog, or on our website.

I mentioned above a "High level of spend in the last couple of years". Expanding on that, we have in fact had 2 record years back to back! Financial Year 2009 - 10 saw allocations of over £550,000 main grants over a total of 15 projects. The total value of all funding for the projects (ie all the funding for all the projects) is about £1.1million. But wait for it - The last Financial Year racked up almost £700,000 in direct FET allocations, over 21 projects with a total value of around £4.2 Million (There were some really big ones this last year). Interestingly we also had a record number of successful applications from local community groups, as opposed to the big environmental charities. I believe this to be the greatest success of all, as it show Falkirk to be a centre of excellence for community driven environmental activities.

As much as I'd love to take credit for these successes, it's not down to me at all . It was in fact YOU LOT that did the hard work of putting togeather so many really great projects. Well Done to all involved - you know who you are!!

Finally I welcome our new volunteer, Fiona, who is going to be assisting at the FET office in publicity and administration tasks. Fiona is a local Environmental activist who finds herself with a little time on her hands.

Thats all for now - Keep those applications and project ideas coming!

All the Best for now

Art Berg
Development Manager
Falkirk Environment Trust

Friday, 27 May 2011

Landfill Community Fund Basics 1 The Biodiversity Project

LCF Category DA - The Enhancement and Conservation of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is important. People at the very top are deeply concerned about biodiversity, mainly because human civilisation depends upon the ability of nature to provide goods and sevices. Unfortunately human activity is slowly but surely damaging the earths capacity to process pollutants, pollinate our crops, provide us hundreds of other services that we take completely for granted. Whilst there is a lot of talk at the top end of the social spectrum, there seems to be an unwillingness for everyday people to engage in biodiversity conservation on a local level. Biodiversity loss is sensationalised until it would seem that theres not much we can do about it. Be it rainforest habitat loss, the melting of the icecaps or the impending extinction of the white rhino, there is always the under pinning feeling that biodiversity is something that is happening a long way away, and is outwith the common persons control. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Biodiversity is the responsibility of everyone as we all benefit from natures services, without which, humanity would be in deep trouble.

I’m sure that everyone will agree that Scotland is a beautiful place in the main, with a rich and diverse history, culture and natural heritage, However, Scotland’s biodiversity is subject to all the stresses and strains of the 21st centuary – Species and habitat loss due to construction and industry, pollution and invasive species to name but a few. Bearing in mind that it is everyones problem,  there are actions that we can do, and when I say we I mean the partnership implicit between Falkirk Environment Trust and the people of Falkirk.

FET, as you know, Awards Landfill Community Fund (LCF) grants to community led environmental  projects. One of the areas of these awards are biodiversity. To quote Entrust;

“Where it (ie the project) is for the protection of the environment and subject to paragraph (3A)
below, the conservation or promotion of biological diversity through:
(i) the provision, conservation, restoration or enhancement of a natural habitat; or
(ii) the maintenance or recovery of a species in its natural habitat
- on land or in water situated in the vicinity of a landfill site;’
(Extract from Entrust Guidance on Object da) – Click here for access to the full Entrust library of documents

Sounds fairly easy, but actually Biodiversity and habitat projects carry a few complexities that can trip up the unwary applicant. I have examined a few of these below.

The Board of FET are especially interested in biodiversity projects in the Falkirk Council area, and want to see more good quality applications coming forward. Here are a few pointers to get you going.

1)      Community Led - Application must be from groups, charities or non profit organisations. We will not fund projects brought forward by individuals, or that will in anyway benefit a business or land owner. You must be part of a group with constitutional documents, a bank account and a committee of volunteer decision makers
2)      Habitats vrs species - The above guidance shows that you can create, conserve or enhance a whole habitat, for example a woodland, river system or hedgerow are all good candidates for a category DA grant. OR you can apply to help a single species, such as bean geese of greater crested newts. Either way the Habitat or Species MUST be named in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan. Click Here to link with this document.
3)      Take advice - Always talk to the biodiversity Officer at Falkirk council with reference to your project who can advise you of the next steps to take. Do this BEFORE you make an application.
4)      Wild life Surveys - You will almost certainly be required to perform a “Phase 1 Habitat survey”, to advise the project on what is at the site already, and what you can and cannot do there. Funds allowing, FET is able to financially assist in this  type of thing through it’s Small grants scheme.
5)      Be Concise – a lot of applicants put elements of work into their applications that are in fact Category D, ie Public Amenity works such as paths or structures. It is best to avoid this if only because it confuses Entrust and slows up the project registration process.
6)      Legal Restrictions - There are laws to protect the natural environment, and as such you must be sure to follow these to the letter. Again talk to the Biodiversity officer, or Scottish Natural Heritage’s Forth Area Officer.
      Click Here for the SNH’s Forth valley area contact details.
7)     Management and Maintenance - in many situations a site may need to have a management plan drawn up, or may need to be maintained in some way over time. Applicants should think in terms of the site being an ongoing concern rather than a one off "Hit". Organiastions exist which can help with these issues, and as always, when in doubt, contact FET.

The list shown here is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to give you a taste of the kind of thinking and planning that you will need to engage in to get money for biodiversity projects

So if you are concerned about biodiversity in the local environment, or about a habitat near you that needs some help, there is help at FET! Give me a call or drop me a line and let me know what your plan is, or even just your biodiversity concerns for a local site.

All the best for now

Art Berg

Tel 01324 504816

Note – In all instances contact the development manager before you attempt an application for either small grants or main grants programmes

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

First entry and a few announcements

Hello to everyone reading this entry - the first of the Falkirk Environment Trust Blog. The purpose of the blog is really to enable FET to get information out to all interested parties as quickly as is possible. That information can be anything and everything about FET, it's partners, applicants, Landfill Community Fund or FET Small grants. I also reserve the right to post up items & links that might increase the ability and desire of  the readership to perform community led environmental projects.

So onto business:

First announcement comes from the Board themselves, who have decided to re-instate the "only up to 50% of the total required costs " rule.  The idea is that applicants should seek out other sources of money to share the burden and risk with our organisation. To assist applicants I will include links to other funders in future posts and standing documents.

Second announcement for todays entry - again the board wish me to inform all potential applicants that they will not consider making an award of more than £50,000 per grant. This is effective immediately and applies to any main grants application not already allocated through a board decsion. It does not affect small grants for the time being.

Combining these two announcements, applicants can only approach FET for an amount of £50,000 if their project is worth £100,000 or more.

The above are linked to our third announcement, which is one of THANK YOU for helping FET to achieve it's biggest year to date. Record breaking in both number of projects allocated (at 21) and amount allocated (at £679,000).

 I cant go into detail about the projects because not all of these are registered or assured of final delivery at this stage, but early indications show that we've had an excellent year in 2010/2011. .

To my mind the best aspect of FET's year has been an unprecedented allocation share going to smaller community groups this. This happy trend has been building for the last two years. Please keep those community group applications coming.

And Finally I wanted to put out some information on our forthcoming Board of Directors business meetings, as follows;

Summer         22nd June             FET Board Field Trips and Business meeting

Autumn          28th September   AGM & Business meeting

Winter            14th December    FET Business meeting

As always applications are strictly 3 weeks in advance on the appropriate meeting date for forms, enclosures and business plans. This gives me time to prepare the necessary reports and documentation

Thats all for now, so thanks for taking the time to read this. I will hopefully be in touch on a regular basis with news and further announcements

Art Berg