Final preparations for £8.5m ‘transformative’ Dales scheme bid set to be approved

Swaledale, by Stephen Garnett. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The final piece in the jigsaw to enable an £8.5m bid to fund a five-year programme of habitat restoration, business and skills support, improvements to access across some of the North’s most remote communities and outstanding landscapes looks set to approved.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will hear after years in development, the Tees-Swale: naturally connected scheme application is just weeks away from being submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a final decision.

If approved by lottery bosses after three months of consideration in June, the scheme, which is being led by the North Pennines AONB, would see habitats across 829sq km of Teesdale and Swaledale restored, expanded and connected, wildlife enhanced and multiple public benefits delivered from September next year.

In partnership with farmers, landowners and conservation agencies, the scheme will support and increase the skills needed to sustain the high nature value farming systems that work well in upland areas.

The scheme follows a survey in 2017 of some of the most important habitats in Swaledale outside of sites of special scientific interest that found only 60 per cent of them, by area, are in good condition.

A report to the park authority states match-funding for the scheme is largely in place, following a £400,000 shortfall emerging and authorities such as Richmondshire District Council moving to plug the gap. Other preparations for the final bid have seen visits to more than 100 farms and officers building relationships with many schools and young people’s groups across Durham, Teeside and North Yorkshire.

The report states: “The success of the project depends, critically, on the trust built up between the project officers and the people with whom they will be working to deliver projects on the ground.”

The park authority will consider providing an extra £34,000 to cover officers wages before a decision is made.

Gary Smith, the authority’s director of conservation and community, said: “The Tees-Swale project has the potential to have a transformative effect for nature and people in Swaledale, especially in light of the recent devastating flooding in the area. It is, therefore, considered essential to the effectiveness of the project that the current project officers be retained.”