Nature North has received £500,000 of funding.

A consortium of leading environmental organisations in the north of England have joined forces to support the delivery of nature recovery at a strategic scale. This is the first known initiative of its kind in the UK working at this magnitude.

Today, 4 August 2022, it has been announced that the group known as Nature North has received £500,000 of funding between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

This funding means the partnership can move forward with its ambitious plans to ensure that nature recovery can be a stimulus for future prosperity, levelling up and adaptation to climate change. Bringing together wide-ranging expertise, the group will collaborate to develop key strategies for the whole of the north of England.

Nature North will forge stronger partnerships bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, from conservation organisations to statutory bodies, to local and regional authorities, to health bodies and industry.

Nature plays a key role in growing the economy and providing resilience to climate change. The hope is that this collaborative work will generate green jobs, boost biodiversity, enhance water quality, improve the health of the population, reduce flooding, support climate change adaptation and help attain net zero.

Home to world renowned natural landscapes; from the rugged coastlines of Northumberland, to the picturesque surroundings of the Pennines, to the sprawling Yorkshire Dales, and rapidly growing urban nature developments such as Castlefield Skypark, the natural environment of the North is hugely diverse and distinctive. The importance of natural heritage and the positive impact it can have on local economies and its role in creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns, cities and counties, is being further recognised. Nature North is dedicated to working together to amplify this message.

Nature North has an 11-strong membership of organisations working across the region. These are the Environment Agency; The National Lottery Heritage Fund; The National Trust, Natural England; the Areas of Outstanding National Beauty in the north of England; The Wildlife Trusts; the National Parks in the north of England; RSPB, England; The Rivers Trust; The Woodland Trust; and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Seven key areas have been identified to drive nature recovery in the region. The hope is that this work to drive nature recovery, can in turn deliver climate resilience and support a sustainable economy for the North of England.

Termed ‘Investable Propositions’, the group has identified five brand new fields and two existing strands to concentrate on.

The five brand new investable propositions are as follows:

  • Green Northern Connections – connecting nature recovery networks and linking them into the extensive transport and energy infrastructure plans across the north of England. This will provide an opportunity to ensure biodiversity and environmental net gain, enhance climate resilience and mitigate negative impacts.
  • Liveable Northern Towns and Cities – supporting strategic improvement and enhancement of existing green spaces in northern towns and cities. This will address inequalities in access to nature and linked impacts to health and wellbeing, changes in working practices post-pandemic, and the effects of climate change. Green spaces and better access to them, have been found to be a key feature of successful places and have an increasing role in town and city centre regeneration.
  • Thriving Coasts and Estuaries – driving livelihood creation and environmental benefits to reinvigorate coastal communities, many of which are economically and ecologically degraded. Activities including salt marsh restoration, sustainable fishing initiatives and support for ecotourism will provide benefits such as recovering fish stocks, providing coastal flood protection and improving the visitor economy through place making, clearer bathing water and greater wildlife.
  • Resilient Farming North – supporting sustainable, productive and nature friendly farming in northern lowlands. The intensification and the influence of agricultural policy has resulted in a system with higher flood risk and reduced soil quality. Farmers will be supported to further improve efficiency or productivity in a sustainable way to meet future demands on their land and exposure to global markets. Regenerative farming approaches such as improved soil management, crop rotation, creating buffer strips, wetland creation and the planting of hedgerows will aid nature recovery.
  • Healthy Northern Rivers – upscaling existing activities and best practice in funding and implementing nature recovery interventions related to river catchment areas. Proposed activities include restoring and creating habitats, naturalising river systems, reconnecting flood plains to rivers, natural flood management and reintroducing key species. Work with farmers to improve land and soil management will also be key to promoting sustainable production methods.

The two existing programmes that the work of Nature North will build upon are:

  • The Northern Forest – establishing over 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull, providing benefits, such as, sequestering an estimated 7.5 million tonnes of CO2e over 25 years; reducing the risk of flooding; and making people across the north happier and healthier.

The Northern Forest is a partnership between the Woodland Trust and  4 Community Forests – Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, White Rose Forest & Humber Forest. As well as the Community Forests Trust.

  • The Great North Bog –  aiming to restore all of the remaining degraded blanket bog in the north of England.

Benefits provided include keeping 400 million tonnes of stored carbon in the ground; avoiding emissions of 4.4 million t/CO2e/yr from degraded peat; reducing flood risk and improving water quality.

The programme brings together 6 existing peatland restoration partnerships.

Defra Minister for Green Finance, Lord Benyon, has voiced his support for the work of the consortium: “The Nature North collaboration is bringing together organisations focused on delivering nature recovery in the North of England. This unifying initiative will help support fantastic projects, such as the Northern Forest and the Great North Bog, to attract the private investment needed to complement public funding for nature’s recovery. I can see the potential of this approach, and how it can benefit other parts of the country. I look forward to seeing the initiative develop.”

Tony Juniper, Chair, Natural England, said: “Natural England is a proud partner of Nature North, working with organisations to drive nature recovery across the whole of the north of England. Collaboration on this sort of scale is absolutely vital, if we are to mount an effective response to climate change and restore the natural world by creating a Nature Recovery Network across this beautiful and fragile part of England.

“No one organisation can do what’s necessary on its own, but each can bring its own specialist expertise, experience and evidence to this partnership and start to turn our national targets and ambitions into practical action on the ground.”