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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Charities compete for 50m award
Lottery ticket
The award aims to improve the environment
Environmental groups are going head to head to win 50 million of lottery money, the largest single amount ever awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

A public vote will choose the recipient from The Eden Project, Sherwood Forest, a Black Country Urban Park or transport charity Sustrans.

The vote will be broadcast on ITV in December, with online voting also open.

The People's Millions scheme to improve the natural environment will have an overall cost of 140m.

If the public don't vote for any of us we deserve what we get
Tim Smit
The Eden Project

Last summer a committee at the Big Lottery Fund selected a shortlist of six projects from a total of 33 applicants, with four announced as the finalists on Tuesday.

Sir Clive Booth, chairman of the Big Lottery Fund, and TV presenter Jenni Falconer announced the shortlist in London.

"It won't be as sexy as Strictly Come Dancing, but this is going to change whole communities," said Sir Clive.

As the public were the lottery players, it was only right they should have a say in where the money went, he went on.

His hope, he said, was that by voting people would also be stimulated to get involved in the projects.

At a press conference the chief executive of Sustrans, John Grimshaw, said the money would help to change lives but the process to get it was "desperately tedious and awkward".

"I'm sure in another country you would have a much easier way," he said.

The successful project will be chosen by a public vote despite recent revelations about mismanaged television phone-in competitions.

Sir Clive said calls would be charged at the standard rate and safeguards would be in place to vet proceedings.

'Test of our times'

Sustrans has asked for funding for 79 schemes across the UK to create footpaths and cycle paths which link up previously severed communities.

The Eden Project in Cornwall wants to create a project called the Edge, which would explore the problem of climate change and examine how plants have coped with change in the past.

Tim Smit of the Eden Project said: "If the public don't vote for any of us we deserve what we get. I think it's rather a nice test of our times to see whether the country gives a damn."

The Black Country Urban Park aims to improve the lives of one million people by reviving canals and developing a 12-mile corridor linking Walsall with West Bromwich.

Finally, Sherwood: The Living Legend Project, hopes to protect what is reputed to be Europe's oldest collection of oak trees.

It would plant 250,000 trees over 350 acres to fill the gaps created through neglect, and also build a visitors' centre.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A look at the projects hoping to win funding



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