New funding for Rivers Trusts to protect communities from flooding

The Rivers Trust movement has been awarded a combined total of £5.6m from the Defra Natural Flood Management programme.

Rebecca Duncan



Seven local Rivers Trusts have been awarded a combined total of £5.6m for more than 20 Natural Flood Management projects which use nature interventions to protect communities at risk of flooding, as well as improving biodiversity and habitat. The money comes from Defra’s £25m Natural Flood Management programme, which was announced today, 23rd February 2024.

Natural Flood Management (NFM) interventions such as tree planting, wetland creation, and floodplain reconnection help to mimic the natural processes of river catchments, holding water in more upstream areas to slow its flow and alleviate the risk of flooding downstream.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of The Rivers Trust, responded to the announcement: “I’m extremely proud that the Rivers Trust movement has been so successful in this round of funding. The local Trusts who have been successful will be able to deliver some great benefits, working with nature to slow the flow of water through their catchments and protect local communities.”

The Rivers Trust has long been a champion for integrating nature-based solutions, including NFM, to complement more carbon-intensive grey-engineered flood defences. As well as alleviating flood risk, NFM has many other advantages, reducing river pollution, creating or improving wildlife habitat, and bringing about health and wellbeing benefits for those living nearby.

Whilst this funding announcement gives cause to celebrate, Mark also highlighted the fact that even the £25m funding pot does not meet the demand to deliver Natural Flood Management projects across England: “This fund was massively oversubscribed. We have the will and the capability to do so much more. £25m is a tiny fraction of the multi-billion pound flood budget, which is largely going towards siloed solutions relying on carbon-hungry concrete. We need to add another zero to NFM funding to see benefits across whole landscapes with many more homes, businesses, and communities protected.”

Information on funded projects

  • East Mercia Rivers Trust successfully applied for funding for the Field Beck NFM project to reduce flood risk in Holdingham, Sleaford. Taking place on Field Beck an ecologically important limestone water course, the project follows an NFM scoping exercise which identified an opportunity to reconnect a major floodplain, alongside smaller-scale interventions to recreate a functional lowland wetland on an ecologically important limestone watercourse. The work is expected to lead to increased sediment capture, improved biodiversity as well as flood alleviation, with a programme of local community and landowner engagement.
  • Mersey Rivers Trust will receive funding for 9 NFM projects in the Alt catchment, an urban river which flows for 17 miles across Merseyside.
  • Ribble Rivers Trust will receive funding to carry out four projects in three Lancashire catchment areas: Darwen, Clitheroe and Wrea Green. All of the work forms part of the Trust’s Community Catchments initiative, delivering improvements for and with communities who have been affected by flooding. The measures introduced or expanded with this funding include attenuation wetlands, peatland restoration, woodland creation, and leaky dams. As well as slowing the flow of water to downstream areas, the work will create valuable wildlife habitat for trout and salmon, and improve water quality, including at Fylde Coast bathing waters. Partners including local councils, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust, Heidelberg Materials, and Downham Estate. CEO Jack Spees said of the announcement: “Owing to the nature of our catchment, many of our communities are not able to benefit from traditional flood defences, and we have worked with them to develop Nature Based Solutions that will not only support reductions in flood risk, but also improve the natural environment for those communities to enjoy. We are delighted and excited to have been awarded funding to make these Nature Based Solutions a reality alongside the communities”.
  • River Waveney Trust’s Diss NFM is a package of three projects in Gissing, south Norfolk. Measures within the Frenze Beck, Dickleburgh Stream and Stuston Beck catchments build on recent work to alleviate surface water and fluvial flood risk to the village of Gissing. Through collaboration with the local community, landowners and parish council, measures include reconnection of an historic river channel, as well as further floodplain meadows, leaky dams and scrapes. Catchment Officer Emily Winter said: “Following terrible floods in December 2020, we were approached by members of the public to help relieve flood pressure on homes in Gissing by reconnecting the local stream to its floodplain. We also installed a leaky dam, reconnected a dry, historic channel, and created new scrapes to slow and store water. The work was completed in September 2023, and we weren’t expecting it to be put to the test so quickly, but we’re really pleased to see it working as we’d hoped. It has been a fantastic example of a relatively simple and low-cost project that will have far-reaching positive impacts for the local community. This new funding will help us to develop the work even further, which is wonderful because the word has already been spreading in local villages about the potential to do more.” The work is supported by WWF, Aviva, the Environment Agency, Garfield Weston Foundation and Essex & Suffolk Water.
  • Severn Rivers Trust will implement NFM measures in the headwaters of Illey Brook, near Halesowen in the West Midlands. Much of the work will focus on improved soil and land management to slow and store surface water, reducing runoff and soil erosion, and supporting agriculture. There will also be new woodland areas and hedgerows planted to support biodiversity.
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust was successful in its funding bid for Climate Resilient Megavissey, a partnership project with the Environment Agency, Climate Vision, University of Plymouth and local farmers. Megavissey is a steep-sided rapid-response catchment which has flooded 27 times since 1960, most significantly in 2010 when more than 70 homes and businesses were flooded. This project will work with local farmers and the community to slow, move and store water through soil management and nature-based solutions at a scale and density for change to be monitored through an Environment Agency flow gauge station.
  • Wyre Rivers Trust will receive funding for the Wyre Catchment Resilience programme, which will deliver a suit of targeted NFM measures. This includes the creation of wetlands, ponds, riparian buffer strips, and soil management measures to increase infiltration into compacted upland and lowland soils. The project will ensure that all interventions maximise flood risk reduction whilst restoring natural processes which result in benefits for the ecosystem such as increased biodiversity and carbon storage, and for local communities both culturally and in increased climate resilience. The project will expand upon the learnings of the Wyre Catchment NFM pilot project, and will further cement the role of nature-based solutions in helping to alleviate flood risk within the Wyre catchment.

The work funded by Defra’s NFM programme will take place between now and March 2027. A full list of successfully funded projects and more information about the programme can be found on the Defra website.

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