A £2.8million grant has been awarded to a wildlife charity as it aims to fulfil its founder’s last wishes.
The Wildlife Aid Foundation, based in Leatherhead, was founded 40 years ago by Simon Cowell.
The money, which Surrey County Council’s cabinet approved today (Tuesday 25th July) will be used to build a community hub for hosting school, college and community groups, as well as family sessions and talks. The £2.8m represents just less than a quarter of the project cost, with the remainder being raised by the charity.
The Wildlife SOS star, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2022, launched a Simon’s Last Wish appeal to help the charity after his death.
Documents for the cabinet meeting, which made the decision on awarding the funding as part of the Your Fund Surrey money that community projects can bid for, say the project has the “potential to have a long-lasting positive impact on the environment and wildlife in Surrey”.
A planned wildlife centre would restore land bordered by the M25 and the River Mole, and give the charity a future rescuing and rehabilitating animals in Surrey.
Mr Cowell said the charity had got far bigger than he ever thought it would when he founded it 40 years ago and praised the 400 volunteers at the charity.
He told the LDRS earlier in the year: “They just do an amazing job, and without them we would not be here. It’s as simple as that.”
On his cancer diagnosis, Mr Cowell said he was in “total denial of the whole thing”. He said: “We all think we won’t get it, and when you do get cancer, you’ve got two choices. You sit in the corner and sulk, or you just ignore it and get on with it while you can. So I’ve done that, basically.”
Emily Coady-Stemp LDRS
Epsom and Ewell Times adds:
After the grant was announced Simon Cowell said: “It’s an astonishing fact that a third of Surrey’s biodiversity is either locally extinct or heading that way. The power of the Wildlife Aid Centre shows that, by all of us working together, we will be able to change this. We will inspire visitors to carry out regular, small actions which will have significant, positive impact on the environment. And by all of us doing it, our joint strength is enormous.
This amazing funding means we can finish creating the habitats and build a visitor centre that will welcome everyone. I am thrilled that Your Fund Surrey is supporting the Wildlife Aid Centre; together we will create a replicable movement for environmental good that is driven by our communities.”
Surrey County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and Community Safety Councillor Denise Turner-Stewart said: “I would like to congratulate the Wildlife Aid Foundation who have been successful in their application to Your Fund Surrey’s Community Project Fund.
“This is fantastic news for the Wildlife Aid Foundation and indeed for Surrey’s residents. This is a truly ambitious and inspiring community legacy project. The new centre aligns with our ambition to promote a greener future in Surrey, to help restore and protect the future of the county’s natural environment and encourage nature and wildlife to thrive. It will also offer huge benefit, opening the doors for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about wildlife conservation.”
A £2.9m award given to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in June saw the total amount of money given out from the pot reach £10m since its launch in November 2020.
The Wildlife Aid Foundation is a charity dedicated to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned animals. Based in Leatherhead, Surrey, UK, the centre operates Surrey County’s only wildlife hospital (one of the three largest such hospitals in the UK) and maintains a referral service for wildlife hospitals throughout Europe. The organisation also carries out environmental activist and educational roles. Wildlife Aid has attracted media attention for its rescues of photogenic wild animals like young foxes and baby badgers; Animal Planet’s TV program Wildlife SOS chronicles the activities of Wildlife Aid volunteers as they rescue imperiled animals