Headlines: February 9th, 2004

Some of Britain’s poorest rural areas are benefiting from a scheme to ensure fairer distribution of Lottery money, according to a report today. It shows that the Countryside Communities scheme, run by the Community Fund and the Countryside Agency, has given out 1.6 million pounds in its first five years.The report shows, though, that there is still 14.6 million pounds available in the scheme’s budget for 300 rural communities over the next four years. As well as local projects in those areas, 2.2 million pounds has also been earmarked for projects making a wider impact on rural communities across the country.

Countryside Communities operates in eight local authority areas, identified as not having had a fair share of Lottery money. The areas are King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Fenland and North Norfolk, Boston and West Lindsey, Shepway and Dover and Sedgemoor. This spring the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund will merge to form a single lottery distributor.To coincide with today’s research, a booklet giving details of the scheme and examples of grants already awarded has been published. From today a banner will appear on the UK Villages website (www.ukvillages.co.uk) so people in Countryside Communities areas can enter their details and be contacted directly.

Diana Brittan, who chairs the Community Fund, said the grants were helping to expand much-needed services and preserve buildings that were the heart and soul of community life as well as helping to reduce isolation, prevent crime and create community spirit among people in rural areas.