Norwich wildlife project in fight for its future

Norwich Fringe Project's Matthew Davies at Marston Marsh. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY Norwich Fringe Project's Matthew Davies at Marston Marsh. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Thursday, February 20, 2014
12:00 PM

An under-threat project which protects and manages hundreds of acres of countryside around Norwich is appealing for people to get involved to secure its future.

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The Norwich Fringe Project was set up in 1990 and manages and restore 38 nature reserves, ancient meadows, heaths, marshes and woods, such as the 65-acre Marston Marsh at Eaton, Whitlingham Marshes, Mulbarton Common and Swardeston Common.

As well as looking after ancient commons, the project also advises on several recently created sites that are being managed for wildlife, such as Charter Wood community woodland near Bowthorpe and Ketteringham quarry.

It also makes sure local people can access that green space, organises local volunteers to help and promotes awareness of wildlife and countryside management.

The project has long relied on funding from the likes of Norwich City Council, Broadland Council, South Norfolk Council and The Broads Authority.

But, with those councils facing a squeeze on what they can fund, they are trying to decide on the best way forward for the project.

And that could see the project turned into a Community Interest Company - a type of social enterprise, which would need directors to oversee it.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has indicated it would be interested in supporting the natural heritage work of the Norwich Fringe Project and a ‘Start Up’ grant application of just under £10,000 has been lodged.

In an independent survey, 56pc of people who responded rated the performance of the Norwich Fringe Project and its manager Matt Davies at 10 out of 10 and the average score came to a 9.21 out of 10.

Charity consultant Mark Ereira-Guyer, of Bury St Edmunds-based eg: consulting , which conducted the survey, said: “There is clearly a deep well of potential - and eager - participation that the Norwich Fringe Project can tap.”

Green councillors are pressing local councils to work quickly to help it happen.

Lucy Galvin, Green city councillor for Wensum ward, said: “The Norwich Fringe Project has been in trouble since 2012 with authorities pulling their support from it, and although work has gone on behind the scenes, it has taken far too long to get to this stage.

“A report was prepared and ready to go months ago, but the city council have been very slow to act. Councils have known for at least a year that it is in trouble and yet no decisions have been taken. It is time to act, involve people and get a new entity off the ground.

“Realistically there just isn’t much secure funding for these areas any more, but it’s critically important to manage them - for people and nature.

“I know of at least eight community groups who would jump at the chance to be part of a green spaces community interest company. For example, the Friends of Train Wood would like to manage the wood that they successfully fought so hard to save from sale by the county; or the group LTC Green Spaces have been busy all over Lakenham and Town Close wards.”

Anyone interested in getting involved with the group should contact Mr Ereria-Guyer on 01284 703526 or email mark@egconsulting.co.uk

• Are you involved with a group which is fighting for its future because of funding cuts? Tell us your story by calling reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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