Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund: Outcomes and Eligibility

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund was launched in 2019 to fund new projects existing to promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  Projects were to retain jobs and sustain populations and services in rural communities, and to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

The NCHF map of the Highlands and Islands identifies the areas covered by the fund.

This Challenge Fund of £8.9million of ERDF money was available through a single competitive funding round which opened on 14 January and closed on 22 April 2019.  The fund has delivered 13 major projects with £8.6 million of ERDF money. Projects sought an ERDF grant of a minimum of £250k and the total eligible project costs had to be a minimum of £360k.  Projects were only supported if they demonstrated sensitive management and safeguarding of heritage assets for future generations and had also sought funding elsewhere. 

This Fund supported:

  • Interpretive media to promote natural and cultural heritage assets consistent with sensitive management and sustainable use
  • Infrastructure investment to expand the provision of tourist facilities
  • Improved accessibility, interpretation and quality of visitor experiences
  • New products or services based on the region's natural and cultural resources, particularly for the tourism sector.

The Fund was one of the Strategic Interventions (SI) in the 2014–2020 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme.  The aim of the ERDF was to invest in communities to help them to grow economic activity and employment.  The Fund contributed up to 70% of project costs and has delivered a total value of £22,686,314 of investment throughout the course of the programme, including the match funding which applicants are required to find.

For general background information on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in Scotland, visit the Scottish Government's ESIF website and Scot Gov ESIF Twitter page

Outcomes of the project

The successful projects primarily relate to the natural and cultural heritage assets of the Highlands and Islands and were assessed against how well they deliver against the following outcomes.  Projects were not required to deliver on every outcome, but were more likely to be successful in funding if they demonstrated that they would deliver on two or more.

  • Outcome 1 - Heritage assets of the transition region are more accessible and better promoted
  • Outcome 2 - The quality of visitor experience to the heritage assets is enhanced
  • Outcome 3 - New products, services and jobs based on heritage assets are created
  • Outcome 4 - There is coordinated promotion and interpretation of heritage assets across the region.

Themes of the project

The ERDF 2014-2020 programme had Horizontal Themes which cut across all the activity it funds. Challenge Fund projects were assessed against the principles of the Horizontal Themes.  These will continue to be monitored after delivery, so projects had to build these themes into their projects.

  • Horizontal Theme 1 – Sustainable Development
  • Horizontal Theme 2 – Equal Opportunities and non-discrimination
  • Horizontal Theme 3 – Equality between men and women

Find out more

Read our latest Partner Press Release: 

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Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund

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