Sustainable Development Fund

Funding for community-based projects

The Cotswolds AONB Sustainable Development Fund is a regional grants scheme, available to individuals, groups or businesses that have ideas or projects that will improve the Cotswolds both now and in the future.

The SDF Sub-Committee have established a theme for the fund over the next 2 to 3 year period.

This theme targets potential or existing projects that have an educational purpose or remit relating to the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with specific reference to its landscape, geology, biodiversity and/or historical environment of the AONB. Successful applicants will identify their particular target group or intended audience, which may include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Primary and/or Secondary Education;
  • Groups with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND);
  • Urban communities located around perimeter of Cotswolds AONB, particularly, within cities which have a high density population such as Swindon and Bristol.

Such projects may relate to diverse sectors such as tourism and recreation, education and business, for example, however, their focus should be to disseminate information about features of the Cotswolds AONB to their target groups or audiences.

Projects which involve a proven element of joint-working and match-funding between a range of partners will be given particular attention by the Officer and Sub-Committee, as key features of Sustainable Development Fund applications, which are identified as components which significantly strengthen an application in clause 14 of the applicant’s guidance notes.

Example projects could include:

  • Countryside classroom and outdoor learning initiatives aimed at schools, colleges and other centres of education, involving field trips to appropriate locations within the Cotswolds AONB;
  • Projects which aims to broaden understanding and knowledge about the Cotswolds AONB, particularly involving urban populations situated in proximity to the area, with a view to encouraging broader access to the countryside;
  • Conservation and display of agricultural implements and/or historical artefacts, or events which showcase traditional ways of life associated with the Cotswolds landscape, such as rural crafts or sheep farming.

The Management Plan of the Cotswolds AONB provides further information about the various Objectives and Policies relating to the educational focus of this theme for subsequent funding applications. Please note that the Sections entitled ‘Conserving and Enhancing’ and ‘Understanding and Enjoying’ are of particular relevance to this possible theme.

Applicants are not required to be based in the AONB, however, all projects must be able to demonstrate the positive impacts on the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds AONB Sustainable Development Fund is coordinated and managed by the Cotswolds Conservation Board with resources provided by Defra.

Application Deadlines

The Cotswolds AONB Sustainable Development Fund for 2019/20 is closed.

Following the recent application window all funds have now been allocated for 2019/20. However the fund will re-open for applications in 2020/21. Any queries please email


What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development in the Cotswolds AONB will conserve and enhance the environmental, economic and community well-being of the area to ensure an improved quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations. Achieving sustainable development will normally require working towards four, interconnected, goals:

  • social progress which meets the needs of everyone
  • protecting and enhancing the environment
  • ensuring a diverse and prosperous rural economy (which supports the conservation and enhancement of the area’s special qualities)
  • the prudent use of natural resources.

Individual projects can place particular emphasis on any one of these four goals. Ideally, they should seek to make progress on all of them, but must demonstrate no negative impact on any.

A sample sustainability checklist can be downloaded here. Completing this list will help you assess how well your project fits the fund’s criteria.

How much is available?

Grants are usually awarded for 50% of project costs. However, this can be extended to 75% for projects led by non-profit making organizations. Grants ranging from a few hundred pounds up to £8,000 are available for the 2018/19 round of funding.

Projects can include the use of volunteers as an ‘in-kind’ contribution towards the total project cost.

Who can apply?

Public, private, voluntary sector, individuals, businesses or community groups can apply. Individuals or businesses can only be beneficiaries where the project shows a clear benefit to the wider community.

What type of projects are eligible?

Projects must meet ALL of the essential criteria and at least ONE of the desirable criteria listed below.

IMPORTANT: There is now a theme in place for the Sustainable Development Fund, which all applications will be expected to evidence in terms of the suggested project. Please read the above guidance about these theme before preparing and submitting any application to the Sustainable Development Fund.

Essential criteria

Help deliver the Cotswolds Conservation Board’s Management Plan for the AONB. This means that the project must address ONE or more of the following issues:

  • Landscape and Geology
  • Biodiversity
  • Historic Environment
  • Sustainable Resources
  • Living and Working in the Cotswolds
  • Farming and Rural Land Use
  • Forestry, Woodland and Trees
  • Tourism, Recreation and Access
  • Transport
  • Planning & Development
  • further the purposes of the AONB to conserve and enhance natural beauty of the area
  • promote sustainable development
  • have the demonstrable support or involvement of communities
  • be complementary to key local, regional or national strategies
  • funding cannot be retrospective

Desirable criteria

  • demonstrate innovation or best practice
  • link community, economy, culture and environment
  • develop skills and “capacity building” in the community
  • involve young people
  • combat social exclusion and promote diversity
  • bring organisations and people together to co-operate in tackling problems or promoting new ideas
  • encourage links between rural and urban groups
  • lever in contributions from other sources
  • have little access to alternative public funding
  • add value or new dimensions to existing sustainability projects

Application process

Applicants are initially encouraged to discuss their idea for a project with the Rural Skills and Grants Officer. to ensure the project is suitable for an SDF grant.

Projects valued at £3,000 or over

Applicants are asked to submit a completed application form to the Sustainable Development Fund, outlining the project aims, budget and intended targets, in addition to other necessary information as required. Applications with a project cost of over £3,000 are referred to the appropriate working group for consideration. Members have a range of interests and experience. Applications will be assessed against the fund’s overall theme, aims and criteria. Applicants will then be notified of the decision within 2 weeks of the appropriate meeting.

Please note that there is also a project proposal form available if potential applicants require a brief consideration of their project before applying, which will be offered by the Rural Skills and Grants Officer., with input from its working group as necessary.

Projects valued under £3,000

Projects valued under £3,000 are asked to submit an application form.. However, in this instance, applications are decided upon by the Rural Skills and Grants Officer.


Who to contact

Please contact Edward Bonn, Rural Skills and Grants Officer  on 01451 862032 or via email to discuss you project idea or to find out more about the Sustainable Development Fund.