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Blackwater Valley countryside group in line for more funding

Support from smaller town and parish councils has been "vital" in keeping the organisation's conservation and improvement work going

Stuart Croft and Laura Keighley clearing up trees along the River Blackwater

Yateley Town Council wants to give more money to a wildlife trust after it discovered its contributions were low compared to other local authorities.

The Blackwater Valley Partnership, which carries out conservation projects, relies on funding from councils bordering the River Blackwater.

Yateley has contributed £786 to the partnership each year for a decade and supports the work of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust, which organises public events for the partnership.

Town council members are considering doubling the contribution to to £1,500 in next year’s budget.

Councillor John Keane said: “The trust is funded by contributions from councils and money from suitable alternative natural greenspace work.

"What we pay is not very generous. I suggest we pay more so we are in line with the other councils.”

The district and county councils in Blackwater Valley pay a contribution depending on how much of the river runs through their area.

Parish councils are not obliged to pay but many do.

Annually, Sandhurst Town Council gives £5,000, Blackwater and Hawley Town Council gives £1,500, Finchampstead Town Council gives £4,000, Farnham Town Council gives £1,500 and Ash Town Council £500.

Adrian Collett, town, district and county councillor for Yateley, said: “What parish councils give is over and above what is asked to allow the trust to do all the things that it can do.

“I would support an increase in what we already pay.”

The River Blackwater borders Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey and runs for about 30km from the source at Rowhill Nature Reserve near Aldershot, eventually flowing into the River Thames near Reading.

Volunteers at the trust have supported various conservation projects including improving access, signage and car park facilities at Hawley Meadows.

They have also installed a bridleway at Moor Green Lakes near Eversley and removed trees and bushes to improve pond biodiversity at Grant’s Moor near Farnborough.

Cllr Bob Harward, a member of Yateley Town Council, said: “I have lived in Frogmore long enough to know what it was like before.

“The pollution in the river was a scar in the landscape for the best part of four decades. I think we should make the best gesture we can to support the trust for turning the river around.”

Steve Bailey, manager of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, said that in times of continuing pressures on local authorities to cut budgets, the support of the smaller town and parish councils had been "vital in keeping our work going".

“That the smaller councils have been joining or increasing their support shows that we must be successful in our aims to improve the valley’s natural environment,” he said.

“The valley’s green spaces and outdoor recreation facilities are of great value for people’s heath and wellbeing and this role can only increase as local populations increase as planned.

“Next year we will be busy in Yateley as we are working to open up a new section of riverside footpath together with wildflower meadow and lakeside walks.”



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