2014 was certainly a big year for WREN. We reached two significant milestones, funding our 7,000th project and surpassing a grand total of £200m invested in projects that leave a lasting benefit for people, communities, habitats and heritage.
WREN also distributed more money than ever before in the past 15 months, and allocated it in larger chunks too. For example, we gave £1m – the single largest grant made by WREN for over 10 years – to the RSPB to purchase land at Hesketh Marsh for conservation, as part of WREN’s Land Purchase Fund.
Reaching these unprecedented levels of funding means our work will make a bigger impact in regenerating communities that need support.
Standing at this apex in WREN’s 17 year history certainly provides a good moment to stop and reflect – to look back on achievements and remember where we’ve come from, as well as look ahead to new challenges for the future.
2014 was an important year for reflection in a wider sense, as it marked the global commemoration of 100 years since the start of the First World War. The impact and significance of this conflict to our society over the last century, and to our lives today, is immense.
That’s why there was unanimous support from board members to award a further grant for £150,000 to London’s Imperial War Museum (IWM), following the £500,000 that WREN initially awarded at the end of 2013.
The money has contributed to the refurbishment of the museum itself, to upgrade the atrium and visitor facilities. It also supports IWM’s centenary exhibitions and new galleries. These hold the world’s most comprehensive First World War collections and help vividly tell the story of a conflict we must never forget.
The themes of remembrance and 100 years of conflict recur in other projects successfully funded by WREN during 2014. These include £650,000 awarded to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, towards creating facilities for the thousands of visitors who pay their respects to military and civilian forces honoured there.
In Essex, the Heritage Fund awarded £200,000 to Stow Maries Aerodrome, Europe’s largest surviving airfield from the Great War to preserve structures at risk for future generations.
This remembrance and reflection make us realise how fortunate we are, and this sense of gratitude is strongly felt within our own organisation.
Firstly, our thanks go to FCC Environment – without its support none of what we do would happen. WREN could also not function without the hard work and dedication of its staff and everyone else who helps us. A heartfelt thanks to you all.
We’re indebted to our panel volunteers who generously contribute their time, expertise and local knowledge. It’s their input that adds integrity to our funding selection process across the 23 panels we operate nationwide to assess community, biodiversity and heritage projects.
What we do is very much a team effort, as working together gets the best results. Alongside teamwork, funding the future is also core to WREN’s ethos – as aiding opportunities for young people creates a longer lasting legacy. So it’s fitting that a project with both these values took us over the £200m mark of total funding invested. This milestone project was funding for almost £67,000 to build the UK’s second largest parkour training ground at Ellesmere Port. The grant award was the result of great team work – a collaboration between the local council, community groups and the young parkour enthusiasts who’ll use the facilities. This grassroots initiative will also really make a difference to kids’ lives.
Looking to the younger generation reminds us that constant change is inevitable, and so it is with WREN’s own future. The amount of landfill in the UK is steadily falling, and we’re introducing better ways to process and reduce waste too, so our long-term destiny remains uncertain. But what more immediate changes will affect us in 2015?
Well, we’ll remember 2014 was year of the Scottish referendum, when Scotland decided whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. Although Scots voted no to independence, the devolution of some powers will continue. This means how WREN operates in Scotland is changing.
Our whole organisation must also undergo a big transition in how we operate. The Landfill Communities Fund is under reform with the aim of improving the flow of funding by removing barriers and unnecessary bureaucracy. This means WREN’s funds will need to be allocated and spent on projects within shorter timescales and projects requiring longer term funding will have to be phased.
On the positive front, it will help us become more efficient and proactive – to process, approve and release funding more quickly – and we’ll be supporting projects with a higher chance of success that can make an impact sooner.
In short, we must evolve or die, and it’s better to continue making positive change that makes a lasting difference to so many people, than none at all. Reflecting upon the achievements of 2014 makes us very proud so we’ll resolve to continue that good work into the future, whatever happens.