Northumbrian Water has launched an expansion of its Branch Out scheme with project funding up for grabs to help benefit the natural environment, wildlife and local communities.

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The North East water company has added two new funding channels in addition to the original Branch Out scheme, which offers project grants from £1 to £25,000 - with the current round of applications closing on August 31, 2020.


The two new funds of the Branch Out scheme are Priority Habitats - aimed at encouraging the creation or restoration of priority habitats that have been identified as being the most threatened, and the second, Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS), to help tackle invasive non-native species.


Project funding ranges from £10,000 upwards for Priority Habitats (with matched funding required) and up to £15,000 for INNS, with applications for these two funds closing September 14, 2020.


Northumbrian Water's Conservation and Land Manager, Stuart Pudney, said: "We are really excited to be expanding the Branch Out fund beyond the original scope of helping to deliver local projects to reconnect habitats for the benefit of communities and wildlife.


"The two new strands of funding should really help reverse declines in biodiversity loss and provide renewed effort to help tackle invasive non-native species across our region. This will all help build resilience which is essential for supporting a healthy natural environment and for us to supply clear, great tasting drinking water.


"It's fantastic we can support local groups, organisations and charities in helping to make a difference to the communities we serve. I'd urge anyone with a deserving project, who is seeking funding, to apply."


Since launching in 2013, Branch Out has awarded grants worth in excess of £470,000 across more than 126 different projects, and in 2017 was a finalist in the prestigious Edie Sustainability Leaders Awards, which recognises excellence and innovation in sustainability.


Kelly Hollings, who is a Project Officer at Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: "Applying for Branch Out funding was really straight-forward and we were delighted when we found out our application had been successful.


"The £2,000 funding has contributed towards our award-winning Restoring Ratty project, which is a multi-agency partnership project that has re-introduced water voles to banks of Kielder's watercourses.


"This project is helping to improve the environment and we are really grateful for the funding from Northumbrian Water."


Projects can also be supported by Northumbrian Water's employee volunteering programme, Just an Hour, which allows employees to give a minimum of 15 hours every year to support community and charitable causes close to their hearts.


John Musham, who is the Invasive Non-Native Species Manager at the Tees Rivers Trust, said: "We were over the moon to receive £3,000 Branch Out funding towards our Roundhill project to help restore natural heritage along river banks of the Tees. 


"We've already cleared around 70% of giant hogweed and this funding is helping us to continue our work in eradicating this dangerous invasive species. This is a great programme by Northumbrian Water and I'd encourage others to apply." 


All applications will be carefully considered and judged against set criteria. Full details, including applications, are available at 


IMAGE: Tees Rivers Trust shows an area once covered with giant hogweed but now has native plants and flowers growing in it.