DORSET'S protected landscape is being given a £500,000 boost.

Farmers and land managers in Dorset's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are to be given grants to make improvements to the natural environment, cultural heritage and public access.

The three-year programme, Farming in Protected Landscapes, opened on July 1 to support nature recovery, mitigate the effects of climate change, and provide ways for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape.

There will be around £500,000 to support projects in the Dorset AONB until the end of March 2022 and it is expected the scheme will continue until March 2024. A similar fund is also available in the Cranborne Chase AONB.

The Dorset AONB covers over 40 per cent of Dorset, stretching from Lyme Regis in the west, along the coast to Poole Harbour in the east, and north to Hambledon Hill near Blandford

Dr Phil Sterling, Dorset AONB Chairman said, “This is a farmed landscape. Farmers have shaped it for millennia, and are responsible for much of its natural beauty now protected for the nation. This fund will support them to continue their stewardship of this very special place.”

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, added: "We know this is a challenging time for farmers as government support for agriculture changes. We hope this fund can help our AONBs’ farmers through this transition.”

The programme will provide funding for one-off projects which allow farmers and land managers in protected landscapes to:

* support nature recovery – such as increasing habitats to improve biodiversity or greater connectivity between habitats

* mitigate the impacts of climate change – such as reducing flood risk or storing more carbon

* provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage

* support nature-friendly and sustainable farm businesses

Projects will be assessed by a local panel to ensure they provide value for money, a legacy from the work, and meet at least one of the scheme’s outcomes, for people, nature, climate or place. Projects should also meet at least one of the aims of the Dorset AONB Management Plan.

Projects to help to mitigate the effects of climate change might include measures to reduce flood risk through natural flood management, or by taking action to reduce a farm’s carbon emissions. Action for nature recovery might include land being improved for wildlife, by creating new habitats or by changing the way land is managed to deliver better results for nature.

Other eligible projects can focus on ‘place’, improving the quality and character of the landscape. These might be restoring and maintaining some of the landscape features and historic assets that make our AONBs so distinctive.