After a successful development phase funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Defra and Environment Agency, the project - led by The Rivers Trust, Wyre Rivers Trust and Triodos Bank UK - is moving towards completion. The Wyre Catchment Community Interest Company has been established as an independent entity to raise £850k of financial investment to go alongside a £526k grant from the Woodland Trust via the Northern Forests Grow Back Greener programme, as part of Defra’s Nature For Climate Fund.
The money raised in the form of a nine-year loan will be used to deliver over 1,000 highly targeted measures, including tree planting, creation of temporary water storage areas, leaky dams and a network of hedges that will significantly reduce flooding to local communities at risk. It will be repaid through the sale of ecosystem services to organisations that will seek to benefit from those interventions including flood risk reduction, carbon sequestration, increasing biodiversity and improving water quality. Local farmers and landowners will then be paid to host and maintain those NFM assets.
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “During COP26 and the build up to the biodiversity summit in China in 2022 we are going to hear a lot of talk about private finance for nature-based solutions to the climate and biodiversity emergencies on Planet Earth. This project is a rare example of that talk being converted into action at a local scale to create a template which is already being replicated elsewhere in the UK. This project could not be delivered by any one organisation on its own, but by a collection of groups taking collaborative action, we can bring about multiple benefits for people and the environment alike.”
Keith Ashcroft, Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire Environment Agency said: “The commitment of several organisations working together to explore innovative, nature based, flood risk solutions is a powerful component of our response to the climate emergency and is to be commended. As well as slowing the flow, these measures will have many other benefits such as providing habitats for wildlife and more green space for our communities.
“Alongside public sector investment, the private sector must be encouraged and supported to invest in protecting and enhancing our domestic natural environment. The Wyre NFM project is possible only because of this unique combination of private financing alongside public and corporate funding. This way of working will help to enhance nature recovery, shape long-term resilience and ensure we are doing all we can to reduce flood risk in a changing climate.”
Jo Harrison, Environment, Planning and Innovation Director, United Utilities “We’re very proud to support the Wyre Natural Flood Management project. This project provides a unique mechanism to secure funding on a scale that wouldn’t be possible for individual organisations on their own. We hope that this project becomes a blueprint for many others in the region and nationally.
“By working in partnership in this way, we can deliver real tangible results that will bring benefits to communities and the environment.”
Gary Hueting, COO, Markerstudy Insurance and Chairman of the Wyre Catchment Community Interest Company, said “The exciting potential of this project is much larger than the many benefits for the Wyre; it aims to provide a successful model to unlock investment in NFM nationally.”
The Wyre NFM project was initiated by United Utilities, Environment Agency, and The Rivers Trust in 2019 with the aim of developing a new commercial business model to accelerate landscape and nature recovery which can attract private financing and innovative contracting structures to supplement public funding and address flood risk. It has been led by the Wyre Rivers Trust, The Rivers Trust national, and Triodos Bank UK. Other partners include Markerstudy, United Utilities, Flood Re, Co-op Insurance, Wyre Council, Northwest Regional Flood and Coastal committee with Hogan Lovells providing pro bono legal advice.
Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank UK: “We have been delighted by investor interest and support during the capital raising process and are proud to have partnered with The Rivers Trust in showing success is possible. We hope this work will inspire others in the finance sector to play our role in connecting economic outcomes to investment in environmental restoration. It has taken approximately two years to bring this investment to fruition and more support is needed to develop similar projects nationwide to address climate change, adapt to its effects and restore biodiversity. This is going to be critical to meeting net zero goals set at COP26 and reversing nature’s decline.”
Ben Smith, Head of Social Investment, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: “Having first supported the Wyre Natural Flood Management project in its development stage, we’re thrilled to see it progress and to now be one of a number of investors. As well as highlighting the value of nature recovery in reducing floods and improving water quality, the project’s partnership approach shows that it is possible to attract private investment into environmental solutions that benefit us all.”
Tom Myerscough, General Manager, Wyre Rivers Trust: “This project will allow us to work at the scale and pace that is required to make our catchment more resilient to flooding and climate breakdown which is crucially important given predicted increases in intense rainfall. The fact that we are able to remunerate land managers and farmers for hosting and maintaining the NFM measures is fantastic, it will ensure that the measures continue to provide a reduction in flood risk and a whole host of wider environmental benefits for many years to come.”
Andy Bord, CEO, Flood Re: “Flood Re is pleased to support this innovative project that should reduce flood risk in the Wyre Valley. Ongoing investment across the country is critical in the face of increasing flood risk from climate change and Natural Flood Management initiatives such as this have a very important role to play."
Councillor Roger Berry, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Services and Community Safety at Wyre Council: “We are happy to play our part and invest in this project, providing funding towards targeted measures which will aid flood management in Wyre. In our business plan we outline our ambition to collaborate with our partners to respond to a range of climate change issues, including our commitment to carbon footprint reduction and tackling flood risk and this project does exactly that.”
Wyre NFM Investment Readiness Project
The Rivers Trust and Wyre Rivers Trust are leading a new pioneering project, which will investigate innovative funding opportunities for implementing Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures on the River Wyre and its tributaries, to help reduce the risk of flooding in Churchtown.