Plans for the new Discovery Centre at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve received a massive boost this week with the news that three major funding organisations have agreed to award more than £1.75 million to the scheme.
The project is designed to provide much-needed, state-of-the-art facilities for the hundreds of thousands of people, schools and groups who visit each year.
Led by Sussex Wildlife Trust, it aims to transform people’s experience of the reserve, and will be backed by an exciting new programme of talks, walks, exhibitions and learning activities for people of all ages.
Three major funding organisations have now stepped forward to support the programme, with a massive £1.5 million contribution from the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, £200,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, and a further £75,000 from the European Union LEADER programme.
Sussex Wildlife Trust chief executive Dr. Tony Whitbread said: “This is fantastic news. This is a really important project both for the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the reserve and the wider region, so securing this kind of top-level backing is a wonderful boost.
“We only secured full planning permission for the scheme in November last year. With the funding being announced, we are already over half-way towards our target of raising £3.5 million for the scheme as a whole.”
Cliff Dean, chairman of the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, echoed his views: “The Friends are excited about our progress towards the realisation of a project which has been in our minds for many years.
“Through the valuable long-term support of our 2,000 members and the great generosity of Joyce and David Layton, we believe that future visitors will emerge from the Discovery Centre with an enriched vision of our area and a strengthened belief in the importance of wild places for human physical and mental health.”
The Garfield Weston Foundation is one of the UK’s leading grant-making Foundations, supporting projects across a wide range of charitable causes including education, the environment, health and the arts. Commenting on its decision to award a pledge of £200,000 to the project, foundation director Philippa Charles said: “The Trustees are always keen to support projects which they believe will make a positive difference. The Discovery Project will, we hope, have a major impact not only on the way people engage with the reserve, but in raising awareness of the importance of conserving our natural environment everywhere.”
The simultaneous news that the EU is to award the project a further £75,000 in funding is equal recognition of the Discovery Project’s importance for the region.
The scheme is administered locally by the Wealden and Rother Rural Partnership.
Chairman Hamish Monro said: “We are delighted to be able to support the Discovery Centre project with a major grant. The funding is there to help grow and extend the tourism opportunities in the region, and we believe the Discovery Centre will deliver on that very well.”
Anyone wanting to know more about the Discovery Centre project – or help shape its future development in the coming months – is welcome to attend an Open Meeting being held at Rye Harbour Village Hall on Tuesday, March 13 from 6:30pm onwards. Admission is free.
There will be updates on the latest progress with the scheme, as well as an open forum for people to ask questions and discuss ideas.