25 Nov 2014
WILDLIFE, communities and local economies are reaping the benefits of England's new Nature Improvement Areas, according to a report published on the 14th November.
The Nene Valley is one of these twelve Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) set up by the government in 2012, which have helped farmers to access EU grants, made valuable contributions towards university research and boosted the £210 billion rural economy.
They've also attracted outside investment – more than £730,000 from business partners and £7.8 million from NGOs and not-for-profit organisations.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
"A healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. These Nature Improvement Areas show how protecting our precious wildlife and outstanding landscapes can help grow our £30 billion rural tourism industry and create more jobs for hardworking people as part of our long term economic plan.”
Almost 19,000 hectares of threatened habitat - equivalent to 23,000 football pitches- have been created or restored since the NIAs were set up with £7.5 million of government funding.
Volunteers have spent 24,300 days – or 66 years in total - surveying wildlife and improving habitats, and more than 11,000 people have taken part in educational visits.
These wild habitats are now bigger, better connected, and more widespread, enabling wildlife such as butterflies and water voles to thrive.
The Nene Valley NIA covers an area of 41,000 hectares running through the heart of Northamptonshire and skirting Huntingdonshire to the eastern fringes of Peterborough. It includes the River Nene and its tributaries, gravel pits, reservoirs and much of the floodplain. Heather Procter, Nene Valley Project Manager said:
"In the Nene Valley we must find a careful balance between the pressures for development, tourism and recreation and the valuable wildlife that the valley is increasingly known for. Through the NIA we have so far ensured that 1,500ha of farmland is managed in a more environmentally-friendly way, created over 100ha of wildflower meadow, and engaged communities in the future of their local environment.
As we work towards the end of this round of Government support for NIAs in March 2015, we urge the Minister to build on the good work already achieved through NIAs, and provide leadership and support for existing and new NIA projects into the future.”
NIAs were first announced in the Natural Environment White Paper, the first government White Paper on the environment for 20 years, with the aim of creating 12 initial areas to reconnect nature on a significant scale through local partnerships.
The NIA partnerships have improved access to the countryside, creating new public footpaths and connecting a network of paths which will span 540km by 2015.
The NIA partnerships are on track to restore, create, enhance and maintain a further 5,500 hectares by 2015, joining up people and communities with their landscapes.
But the vision doesn't end there. In the Nene Valley there are plans to continue to protect and enhance the landscape for the benefit of wildlife, people and the economy for years to come. Local people can help us to form our plans for 2015-20 by adding their thoughts to the interactive map on the Nene Valley NIA website http://www.nenevalleynia.org/my-nene-valley.