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Sustainable Development Fund

Group of schoolkids by a pond

The Sustainable Development Fund is available to a variety of local community and conservation organisations (or individuals) to support projects for the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

There is an annual application process. The Sustainable Development Fund is a fund provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to enable local communities and other organisations to make a difference in AONBs by promoting and achieving sustainable development, partnership, and social inclusion.

The AONB manages the Fund and works with local organisations to encourage project development and applications. These projects focus on integrating the environment, local communities, and the economy so that the unique landscape of the AONB is conserved and its natural beauty enhanced, making it more enjoyable for all.

In 2022-23 the Coast & Heaths AONB has a fund of £44,000 to distribute. The fund can award up to 70% of project costs, with community organisations being able to include ‘in kind’ contributions. For example, the value of volunteer time spent working on the project may be costed into the budget.

Organisations who are seeking a grant up to/in the region of £500 can apply for 100% of the total project costs. This is intended to support small projects and

grassroots organisations where finding match funding would be prohibitive to delivering important local conservation.


The SDF wishes to attract applications from the widest range of society possible and supports equality of opportunities to access this fund. If there is anything that the AONB Team can do to facilitate this process, please contact AONB Grants Officer, Oka Last, on 01473 265558, or by email.

How much funding can a project apply for?

There is formally no limit on the amount to be applied for per application. The panel usually award up to £5,000 per project although in exceptional circumstances higher awards may be made.

When will funded projects be delivered?

Projects for this grant must run between August 2022 – 13 March 2023. 

The Sustainable Development Fund Application Timeline:

  • Opens: 20th January 2022, visit this web page from 20th January for all the necessary information to apply.·      
  • Closes: Grant applications must be received by 16th May 2022·      
  • Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by end of July 2022 and may begin project delivery from August 2022.·      
  • All projects must be completed by 13th March 2023·      
  • Between May and July 2022 the AONB Team will carry out pre-panel assessment of applications which facilitates a new level of support for applicants. The AONB Team may engage in discussions with applicants on how to develop and enhance their proposal prior to an application being presented to the Panel.·      
  • This may include, for example, working on budget presentation or a project communications plan, and ensures that projects are supported in the application process, and the strongest possible applications are presented to the Panel.

Sustainable Development Fund Case Studies

A sunset on the horizon with birds in the foreground

Art Branches

Art Branches is a not-for-profit organisation aimed to improve people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing through provision of creative group and individual workshops. 

Art Branches were awarded £2,320 from the Coast & Heaths AONB Sustainable Development Fund in the 2020-21 year to deliver creative workshops, including photography walks along the River Stour and River Orwell, all with the overall aim of supporting mental health and suicide reduction campaign amongst men in urban areas of Ipswich and the Shotley Peninsula. 

RSPB Stour Wood

Stour Wood lies within the new additional area of Coast and Heaths AONB, on the Essex side of the Stour Estuary. Public transport links make it an accessible outdoor space for the towns of Harwich, Colchester, and Ipswich.

In 2020, RSPB Stour Wood was awarded a £1,061 Sustainable Development Fund Recovery Grant to fund a project to improve accessibility and visitor experience, as well as promoting sustainable tourism, by replacing old, damaged gates which had been significantly vandalised and waymarks that were missing.

Beach Bonkers

Beach Bonkers was founded by Kate Osborne in 2016 to inspire people about Suffolk’s shingle beaches through sustainable beachcombing. This habitat, seemingly so common in Suffolk, is internationally rare and surprisingly fragile.

In 2021 Beach Bonkers was awarded £1,144 from the Sustainable Development Fund to help subsidise people who might otherwise find it hard to get to the beach (or enjoy beachcombing activities) because of transport/cost difficulties.

The Sustainable Development Fund is open to applications from across the Coast & Heaths AONB and the area is outlined and highlighted on Google Maps.

For information and advice about the Sustainable Development Fund please contact Oka Last at Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB for an informal discussion, on 01473 265558 or by email.