Green Recovery Challenge Fund grant success

North Pennines AONB Partnership receives grant of £469000 from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund

  • 68 projects have been awarded grants between £62k and £3.8 million to kick-start a pipeline of nature-based projects while creating and retaining jobs
  • First funding round sees £40 million pot allocated, second round of funding to open in early 2021

The North Pennines AONB Partnership’s High Helbeck project will see an upland Estate become a wilder landscape in one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Defra has announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted – 800,000 in total – and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

The funding will enable the North Pennines AONB team and partners the RSPB and the Woodland Trust, to work with landowners Nicolete and Ben Blackett-Ord, to expand tree and scrub cover, restore peatlands and improve habitat for wildlife at High Helbeck, near Brough, Cumbria.

The project at High Helbeck will have many benefits for the environment, helping to address climate change and promote nature recovery. 80 hectares of bare and eroding peat will be restored through the North Pennines AONB Partnership, as part of their long-running peatland programme which has restored an area of peatland three times the size of Newcastle over the last 15 years. An increase in trees and scrub covering 153 hectares will come about through new planting, but also through promoting natural regeneration, through work supported by the Woodland Trust. The RSPB will lead on creating a series of small wetlands to enhance 85 hectares of habitat for breeding wading birds like curlew, lapwing, snipe and golden plover.  A significant reduction in shooting and greatly reduced but more targeted predator control, is also part of the approach to restoring natural processes.

Andy Lees, Programme Development Manager with the AONB Partnership, said, “We’ve built a really good partnership for this work and have an excellent relationship with the landowners with whom we share the ambition to promote natural process to achieve a wilder and more climate resilient landscape. We’ve also had a lot of support from Natural England, whose staff have known this estate well for 20 years and so as a partnership we understand a lot about where can do positive things for nature, prioritising the carbon gains of restoring vital peatlands while also focusing on tree planting and natural regeneration in the right places.”

Ben Blackett-Ord said: “We enjoy working with the AONB team, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB to develop ideas together.  We want to balance supporting nature recovery with traditional management for livestock and some shooting.”

Whilst the nature recovery work is the main part of the programme, summer 2021 will see a series of guided visits, including events focusing on youth groups and the local community; there will be opportunities to demonstrate the work to other landowners and managers too.

Nicolete Blackett-Ord said: “Ben and I are very excited about this opportunity to restore and enhance this beautiful upland area and make it more species diverse and resilient, whilst benefiting the local community.  As we progress with the project we are keen to share our learning with other landowners and anyone else who might be interested.”

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change.  The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:

“These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

“I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”

The government’s forthcoming Environment Bill puts the environment at the centre of policy making to ensure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation. The fund is supporting a range of nature conservation and  recovery and nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments, including commitments to increase tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

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