Environment Minister Edwin Poots has announced over £1.1 million of funding for 35 environmental projects across Northern Ireland thanks to his department’s Environment Fund.

The fund is available for not-for-profit organisations and councils to deliver key environmental priorities across Northern Ireland.

The competitive programme usually offers up to 75% of funding; however, this year, due to the impact of Covid-19, on available funding the minister offered a higher percentage.

Minster Poots said: “I am delighted to announce this additional funding of £1.14 million for 2020-2021.

This will enable 35 organisations to continue to focus on the areas of environmental protection, improvement and monitoring of habitats and species; promotion of health and well-being as well as an understanding, appreciation and action for the environment.

“It will also enhance access so that we can all enjoy the full value of our natural environment in Northern Ireland.”

Minister Poots spoke as he embarked on a series of visits to some of the successful projects. His first call was to Deadwall Plantation near Lisburn which will see the creation of a 1.2km pathway providing access and connectivity from Glenmore to the 8.5sc Site of Local Nature Conservation Importance.

The £100,000 project is being delivered by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, with £50,000 grant funding provided by DAERA.

He added: “The impact of Covid-19, alongside the difficult financial climate, means this is a great opportunity to support the work of local organisations who are passionate about improving the environment.

I have seen at firsthand the value of the work carried out by these groups and I have been highly impressed by the levels of partnership working and volunteer enthusiasm. I commend them for this work.

“I am delighted that my department was able to provide funding for this project to create a significant outdoor recreation opportunity that promotes health and well-being, whilst contributing to the natural heritage and biodiversity of the area.

“The project will create the capability for a link to the Lagan towpath in the future which will enhance the opportunities for citizens to explore further and enjoy the natural environment around them.”

Among the initiatives being funded are projects for the delivery of core path networks and strategic routes; provision of recreation infrastructure, capital purchases essential for conservation and nature recovery.

The fund has the potential to deliver funding for additional projects later in the year, subject to budget availability.

The minister will be attending a range of projects over the coming weeks and months to get an insight into of the valued work that is being delivered through the Environment Fund and to promote the work of these organisations that are delivering key environmental priorities for Northern Ireland.

Minister Poots added: “This funding will continue to support the delivery of DAERA’s strategic aim of ‘Sustainability at the heart of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone’.”