The Arun and Rother Connections (ARC) project was highly commended at last night’s Charity Awards, the longest-running awards scheme in the charity sector, after being nominated for the Environment and Conservation award.
The RSPB is lead partner in the ARC project, which was shortlisted for the prestigious award in May, alongside stiff competition from the Eden Project and Keep Britain Tidy. The £2.2 million Heritage Lottery funded project brings together seven partner organisations and local communities, all working together to promote a rich, thriving river system in West Sussex where wildlife flourishes, and people are inspired to value and enjoy it.
First place in the Environment and Conservation category went to Keep Britain Tidy, for their innovative ‘We’re Watching You’ poster campaign.
Tania Mason, editorial director at Civil Society Media, which organises the Charity Awards, said:
“We had a record number of entries this year, and the standard was particularly high, so the RSPB and ARC Project partners should be very proud to have made the shortlist.
“For 16 years the Charity Awards have been identifying and celebrating the fantastic work that UK charities do, and the rigorous judging process ensures that only the very best-run charities make it through.
The ten category winners were announced at a ceremony and dinner last night, Thursday 9 June at the Mermaid Theatre in London’s Blackfriars. The black-tie evening was hosted by former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull, joined by representatives of the shortlisted charities, including Mike Clark, Chief Executive of the RSPB, Fran Southgate of Sussex Wildlife Trust and Rachel Carless, ARC project manager.
The ARC project was inspired by commitments from a number of organisations to protect the area; which includes nationally and internationally important wildlife sites, and tackle the big conservation issues within it, such as disconnected habitats, invasive non-native species, pollution and erosion.
Rachel Carless, ARC Project Manager said,
“Engaging communities sits at the very heart of the project. Our activity programme is open to everyone and ranges from oral history projects with local people and river field trips, to developing rain gardens to combat pollution and local flooding issues. Having our work highly commended is a huge honour, and wouldn't have been possible without our partners, the support of local communities and almost 1000 volunteers”
The three-year project runs until November 2016, yet has already delivered significant results that will benefit wildlife and the surrounding community. Major engineering works have removed weirs to help a number of fish, including the endangered eel, which has declined in the UK by 95% in the last 25 years. Other successes include the restoration of wetland habitats like chalk streams, floodplain meadows and visitor improvements to three local nature reserves.
All 30 charities shortlisted were judged by an independent panel of sector leaders as having demonstrated exemplary best practice.
John Low, chief executive of Charities Aid Foundation, overall partner of the Charity Awards, said:
“CAF exists to support the amazing work of charities. Anyone looking to see some of the impressive ways in which charities make a difference would only need to take a look at the shortlisted nominees for this year’s Charity Awards.
“These are shining examples of charities at their very best, showing determined leadership and constantly innovating to support people in communities across the UK and beyond. It has been a difficult year for the charity sector and there are important lessons to take away from this. But it is no less vital that we continue to celebrate the success of charities which make such a difference to people’s lives in so many different ways.
“Recognising the achievements of charities, like those in this year’s shortlist, is a crucial part of how we continue to maintain and build a proud culture of caring for others and selfless generosity in Britain.”
Chris Corrigan, Regional Director for the Southeast said:
“The RSPB is delighted that the ARC project was highly commended for such a prestigious award. Seeing the benefits the project has had to the local community and to native wildlife in the area has already been a huge reward to our staff, partners and volunteers. This commendation provides us with a great opportunity to share this knowledge and inspire others to improve the wild spaces around them, for generations to come.”