EU Invests €8.1 Million to Aid Cross-Border Environmental Recovery

Date published: 07 June 2017

The Special EU Programmes Body has announced that a new cross border environmental project, that will protect endangered species and restore natural habitats, is to receive €8.1m of funding under the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme. The Project Leader within AFBI is Mel Flexen.

Mel Flexen, AFBI CANN project leader

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will lead the new project called ‘Collaborative Action for the Natura Network’ (CANN). The Council will head a consortium of leading government departments, local authorities, research institutions, community groups and charities from across the region.

Welcoming the funding, Mel Flexen, Project Leader within the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), said:

“We are delighted to be involved in an exciting new cross-border project to improve the conservation status of important peatland and wetland habitats. Staff from AFBI will play a significant role in this project and will be conducting mapping of designated nature conservation sites and carrying out scientific monitoring over the course of the project. The development of best practice methodology including the use of remote sensing technologies will be instrumental in supporting the objectives of this project.”

Making the announcement, Gina McIntyre CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which manages the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, said:

“This project brings together a wide range of partners with an impressive depth of experience in the field of environmental protection. By working in collaboration with each other they will be able to make a real and lasting difference on both sides of the border.”

The five-year project will help to improve the condition of protected habitats and priority species found within Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.

The protection of these habitats and species will allow the region to meet targets set under the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives along with realising the benefits from the many ecosystem services (e.g. carbon storage, alleviating flooding and visual and cultural landscapes) provided by these areas.

In total, CANN will produce seven species action plans and 25 conservation action plans improving the conservation status of 3,150 hectares of land designated as being a ‘Special Area of Conservation’.

The project will also deliver a series of education and outreach programmes to help increase awareness of local communities to potential value of natural habitats and endangered species.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in Ireland along with Scottish Natural Heritage. 

Notes to editors: 

Collaborative Action for the Natura Network (CANN)

  • The project represents a consortium led by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council made-up of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute; Argyll & The Isles Coast and Countryside Trust; Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council; East Border Region Ltd; Golden Eagle Trust, the Institute of Technology Sligo, Monaghan County Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Ulster University and Ulster Wildlife.
  • The project will focus on seven protected habitats including alkaline fens, blanket bog, active raised bog, marl lakes, calcareous fens, petrifying springs and transition mires/quaking bogs; as well as seven species including white-clawed crayfish, hen harrier, marsh fritillary, breeding waders (curlew, redshank, snipe), golden plover, corncrake and red grouse.


  • The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU Structural Funds Programmes, PEACE IV and INTERREG VA which are designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society.
  • The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and in the case of INTERREG VA, Western Scotland.
  • The INTERREG VA Programme has a value of €283 million and aims to address the economic and social problems which result from the existence of borders.
  • For more information on the SEUPB please visit


  • AFBI carries out high-quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.
  • AFBI’s Vision is to Advance the Local and Global Agri-food Sectors through Scientific Excellence.
  • All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office 028 9025 5326

Share this page