What is the Sustainable Development Fund?

The Sustainable Development Fund is aimed at supporting projects that bring social, environmental and economic benefits to the area and demonstrate innovation and good practice.

We manage the Sustainable Development Fund for the Blackdown Hills AONB on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Is my project suitable for a Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) grant?

You will need to demonstrate that your project will have an environmental, social or economic benefit – ideally a combination of all three.

In your application you will need to show how your project will:

  • Help to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Blackdown Hills AONB
  • Increase the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the AONB
  • Bring environmental, social and economic benefits to the AONB
  • Have the demonstrable support or involvement of local communities

Who can apply?

Public, private, voluntary and community groups can apply for SDF funding; individuals and businesses can also apply if they can demonstrate their project has a clear benefit for the wider community.

What kinds of projects receive SDF grants?

The fund is aimed at supporting projects that bring social, environmental and economic benefits to the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and demonstrate innovation and good practice.

The fund can support a range of projects including practical work, feasibility studies, research projects, partnership development, and training. Grants can be used to fund new projects or to add value to an existing project.

The types of project that are eligible for a Sustainable Development Fund grant include:

  • Restoration of historic features e.g. village ponds, community orchards, traditional boundaries
  • Training programmes to safeguard traditional skills e.g. hedge-laying, woodland management, surveying and conservation
  • Projects that provide new opportunities for young people

See examples of projects receiving SDF funding

How does the Sustainable Development Fund work?

  • Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) applications are appraised and evaluated for suitability against the grant criteria
  • The scheme can provide up to 75% funding for projects, with the remainder of the cost being met by the group, organisation or individual leading the project.
  • Some volunteer time can be included as an ‘in-kind’ contribution for match-funding purposes but it is preferable to have some cash match funding
  • The maximum grant available is £2,000 per project
  • Funding is paid on completion of the project and not upfront.
  • Projects must be completed by the end of March in the year the grant is awarded
  • SDF cannot fund work carried out before the date of the offer letter
  • Successful projects will need to comply with the grant’s terms and conditions which will be sent out with the grant offer. The terms and conditions stipulate a minimum level of publicity and completion of a short project summary form within 30 days of completion of the project.

Criteria for SDF funding

Your application to the Blackdown Hills Sustainable Development Fund will be assessed according to the extent to which your project meets the following criteria:

Environmental criteria

Does the project:

  • Conserve and enhance the built and/or natural environment
  • Protect or increase biodiversity
  • Promote or implement ‘reduce; re-use; recycle’ principles
  • Promote the use and/or generation of renewable energy
  • Reduce the need for car, van and lorry journeys
  • Minimise pollution of the land, air and water

Social criteria

Does the project:

  • Encourage community engagement, ownership or empowerment
  • Conserve and support the cultural heritage
  • Encourage links between urban groups and those resident in the aonb
  • Combat social exclusion, particularly of young people
  • Promote local community action
  • Encourage those involved to engage in a more sustainable lifestyle

Economic criteria

Does the project:

  • Satisfy local economic needs
  • Provide long-term economic benefit to the community
  • Contribute to local training and/or employment prospects
  • Make use of local suppliers of products, services and materials
  • Demonstrate responsible business practices, promote community support for the local economy

Criteria for success

Does the project:

  • Promote, enhance or generate greater awareness and understanding of sustainability principles
  • Promote understanding and enjoyment of the AONB’s special qualities
  • Have a clearly defined set of realistic aims and measurable outcomes
  • Have a sound management structure to achieve its aims and monitor its outcomes
  • Demonstrate innovation, creativity or best practice
  • Bring organisations together in partnership to tackle an identified need
  • Explore opportunities to access funds and/or support in kind from other sources
  • Add value or new dimension to existing sustainability projects

How to apply for SDF funding

Before you apply:

Download the SDF guidance notes and read them carefully.

If you are unsure about the criteria for funding or any aspect of the application process, please contact us for advice before you apply.

To apply:

  1. Download the SDF application form
  2. Fill in the application form – use the checklist on the application form to assess whether your proposed project meets the criteria.
  3. Once completed, email or post your application to the AONB office.

Sustainable Development Fund appraisal panel

Your application will be assessed by the Blackdown Hills AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund assessment panel.

We aim to have a decision within 21 working days from the date of receipt of an application that has supplied all relevant information to enable it to be assessed.

SDF appraisal panel members

Paul Diviani – AONB Management Group / East Devon District Council

Claire Stepney – Blackdown Hills Business Association

David Allen – Ecological consultant

Mark Pope – National Farmers Union

Gavin Saunders – Neroche Woodlanders

Elizabeth Stonex – Otterhead Trust

Barney Simmons – Somerset Rural Youth Project

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