A Royal British Legion project to plant poppies across the UK has been saved, despite its being turned down for Heritage Lottery Funding.
The project had applied for £92,000, but this was rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) because it said demands for its grants were so high.
The nationwide project, which had been launched by a legion branch in Greenhithe, Kent, is now being taken over by the organisation’s headquarters, which has recruited B&Q, to carry on the scheme.
The revived campaign will be officially launched next month.
The retailer will sell Flanders poppy seeds from its outlets, with buyers encouraged to sow them on their own land. The proceeds will go towards the legion.
Charles Byrne, the RBL’s director of fundraising, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The Royal British Legion is pleased to confirm we are rolling out the Centenary Poppy Campaign, across the UK, and in partnership with national retailer B&Q.
‘The idea to distribute poppy seeds to commemorate the centenary of World War I originated in the Legion’s Greenhithe and Swanscombe Branch, who are working with us to establish this campaign on a national level.
‘We want to see members of the public making this campaign their own in their local communities, working in collaboration with local government, schools and community groups, and we will be taking discussions forward with central government to engrain this campaign in the centenary commemorations.’
The decision by the HLF to turn down the grant application was controversial. Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, said: ‘It is quite a strange decision and a very unfortunate one. It seems on the face of it to have been a wonderful project.’
The HLF has not provided full reasons for rejecting the application. However, it has suggested it simply judged other schemes to be more deserving in what it described as a ‘highly competitive funding round’.
News of the rejection came only a day after it emerged that the HLF had awarded almost £100,000 to the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a pacifist organisation, to raise awareness of the role of conscientious objectors during the World War I.
The HLF had approached the PPU and urged its organisers to apply for funding.
The Telegraph points out that other recent grants by the lottery distributor have included £69,400 to produce an archive and exhibition about Polari, a language used in the gay community in the 1960s; £46,000 for a museum dedicated to ‘South Derbyshire’s production of sanitary ware, toilets and sewage pipes’ ; and £42,000 to create an exhibition, Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester, about the impact that musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols have had on the city.
David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth and a former soldier in the Territorial Army, told the newspaper: ‘It is particularly irksome that the HLF is throwing money on celebrating the role of those who refused to fight, but cannot reach into its pockets to find a little more to remember those who died. It is absolutely disgraceful and I think many people will be in despair at the kind of thing that lottery money is allocated towards.’
Campaigners said the poppy bid had been rejected in a three-line email from the HLF.
To read more about the poppy planting campaign, click here.