Levelling up the north, through investment in large scale climate action and nature recovery

Nearly 100 environmental and businesses leaders, plus policy makers, gathered near Manchester, to make the case for collaboration and investment in large scale nature recovery projects. They say its key to levelling up the north, improving the prosperity, wellbeing and resilience of communities.


Nature North [1], a collaboration between organisations in the North of England, say public and private sector funding in green initiatives, at a strategic scale, will narrow regional inequality. Not least, through the creation of green jobs [2].


They have identified seven investment areas [3] where funding for nature projects will pay dividends for investors and locals. With benefits that include; improvements in people’s health and wellbeing, homes and business being more resilient to climate change and the creation of green jobs, to help local economies, they say.


The scale of ambition, makes Nature North, a UK first. It’s been made possible by £500,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund [4] and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


The focus of Nature North’s first conference, at Quarry Bank, Styal, Cheshire (Thursday 2 Feb), was to set out a vision for green growth and bring together those who will be crucial to achieving this. Speakers included: Mike Innerdale, National Trust’s North of England Regional Director; Sam Plumb, Chief Executive at Barrow Borough Council; Zelda Bentham Group Head of Sustainability at Aviva (the first carbon neutral insurance group); Simon Owen, Managing Director, at Manchester based video production company, Standby Productions; Liz Ballard, Chief Executive of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust; James Copeland, Senior Environment & Land Use Adviser, NFU North.


Giving the key note speech was Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, who said;


“The work of Nature North could not be more important in helping to achieve our national ambition to leave our natural environment in a better state for future generations. It exemplifies the large-scale partnership working that it is increasingly clear is vital for meeting the huge challenges at hand, including the climate crisis and on-going depletion of the natural world.


“It has huge potential in driving forward the significant investments needed to achieve Nature recovery, not only benefitting wildlife, but also creating jobs, economic renewal and contributing to people’s wellbeing. I am very excited to see this initiative gather momentum and look forward during the years ahead to celebrating the many successes that I am sure will arise from the work it will do”.


Clare Hayward MBE, Chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said:


“By working together, we can set ourselves on a path to a fair and sustainable economy and society. Nature will play a key role in this – helping to grow the economy and provide resilience to climate change. This collaboration will generate green jobs, improve biodiversity, enhance water quality, improve the health of the population, reduce flooding, support climate change adaptation and help Cheshire and Warrington and the UK as a whole to achieve our Net Zero ambitions.”

Attending the event were northern chairs of LEPs, LNPs (local nature partnerships) and regional directors of environmental, statutory and charitable bodies. Plus leaders within green finance, land management, business, tourism, heritage, the media, arts and culture. And people from health and education.


Anyone interested in finding out more, including pledging support, should email info@naturenorth.org.uk or visit www.naturenorth.org.uk



PRESS QUERIES – please contact : Steph Hepworth, Nature North Project Officer: stephh@naturenorth.org.uk or 07495 173131. OR Emma Dewhurst (Ten Stories) emma@tenstories.co.uk or 07964 686682.

L – R Chris Woodley-Stewart AONB Partnership, Stephen Trotter Cumbria Wildlife Trust, David Renwick Natural England, Clare Hayward Cheshire and Warrington LEP, Mike Innerdale National Trust, Tony Gates National Park Authority, Tom Burditt Lancashire, Merseyside and North Manchester Wildlife Trust, Colm Bowe Nature North, Tony Juniper Natural England, Liam McAleese Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Sue Longstone Environment Agency

Tony Juniper, Chair, Natural England and Clare Hayward, Chair, Cheshire and Warrington LEP

Notes to editors

[1] Nature North is a collaboration led by: Environment Agency; Natural England; Areas of Outstanding National Beauty in the North of England; the National Parks in the North of England; The National Trust; The Wildlife Trusts; RSPB England; The Rivers Trust; The Woodland Trust; The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

[2] Green jobs business case: https://www.naturenorth.org.uk/business-case/green-jobs/

[3] The seven investment areas in the North of England are:

  1. Towns and cities – with everyone enjoying the benefits of nature on their doorstep.
  2. Healthy rivers – using nature-based solutions to drive improvement in rivers and other freshwater bodies.
  3. Resilient farming – supporting farmers to make a sustainable transition through changes in subsidies, markets and climate through nature-based solutions.
  4. Thriving coasts and estuaries – use of nature-based solutions to address economic and environmental decline in coastal areas.
  5. Green connections – greening major transport and energy infrastructure.

Plus two projects that are underway:

  1. The Northern Forest – establishing at least 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull; an estimated 7.5 million tonnes of CO2e sequestered over 25 years. For every £1 spent, an average of £2.79 can be expected to be returned in economic and social benefits.
  2. The Great North Bog – protecting blanket bog to avoid the release of 400 million tonnes of stored carbon; restoration to avoid emissions of 4.4 million t/CO2e/yr from degraded peat. Upland peatland protection and restoration – for every £1 spent, £4.62 can be expected to be returned in economic and social benefits.

And delivering these benefits:

  1. Green jobs: nature recovery will play a key role in generating green jobs in the north, often in economically vulnerable areas. 25 temporary jobs and 6 job years created for every 100ha of woodland created. [Cambridge Econometrics (2021) RSPB: Economic costs and benefits of nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change].
  2. Achieving net zero: as home to the majority of England’s peatlands, an extensive coastline and a woodland cover much lower than the national average, nature recovery in the north has a key role to play in achieving net zero.
  3. Improved health and wellbeing of communities: by improving access to quality green spaces, nature recovery can play a key role in addressing health inequalities and associated productivity gaps found across the North of England.
  4. Place making: nature recovery and greenspace will play a key part in place making and driving economic growth and wellbeing in northern cities, towns and villages.
  5. Water quality: restoring ecosystems across catchments in the North will restore natural functions which will move river catchment to exceptional condition
  6. Flood regulation: nature recovery supports the landscape to manage flood risk cost-effectively.
  7. Biodiversity: nature recovery will play a key role in improving the condition and connectivity of out habitats and improving species diversity and abundance.

[4] About The National Lottery Heritage Fund – Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund. Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.