Successful Nene Valley Nature Bid Boosts Northamptonshire's Wildlife

27 Jul 2012

River Nene


The Nene Valley has today (27 February) been chosen as one of 12 flagship nature areas for England that will receive Government funding to make the Nene Valley better for wildlife, people and the economy.

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, announced today that the Nene Valley has been chosen as one of the Government's first 12 Nature Improvements Areas (NIAs) from more than 70 initial applications received.

She said, "I'd like to congratulate Nene Valley on becoming one of the first 12 Nature Improvement Areas." "The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose - to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come."

The Nene Valley NIA covers an area of 41,000 hectares running through the heart of Northamptonshire to the Eastern fringes of Peterborough. It includes the River Nene and its tributaries, gravel pits, reservoirs and much of the floodplain within the valley itself. The NIA will deliver a step change in nature conservation, where local organisations have come together with a shared vision for the natural environment. This partnership will plan and deliver significant improvements for wildlife and people through the sustainable use of natural resources, restoring and creating wildlife habitats, connecting local sites and joining up local action.

It presents a landmark in nature conservation for Northamptonshire and Peterborough, recognising the importance of the valley for wildlife and the strong partnership between private, public and voluntary sector organisations. The Nene Valley NIA project will receive significant Government funding over three years and is being led by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, together with the River Nene Regional Park. The wider Nene Valley NIA partnership includes over 20 other organisations including the Environment Agency, River Restoration Centre, Northamptonshire County Council, The University of Northampton, Peterborough City Council and the RSPB.


Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area: Partnership quotes

Brian Eversham, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, said "I am thrilled that the Nene Valley has been recognised as one of the first NIAs today's announcement puts Northamptonshire and its wildlife on the map as one of England's top nature areas. I hope that the success of the Nene Valley NIA and the other 11 schemes announced today will form the start of a new Government commitment to wildlife protection across our three counties and the rest of England."

Christopher Davidge, Chair of the River Nene Regional Park said "I am delighted that the shared ambitions and partnership working in the Nene Valley, one of Northamptonshire's greatest assets, have received national recognition and support as one of the twelve Nature Improvement Areas designated across the UK. This is excellent news for the environment, local communities, wildlife and the local economy. "

Steve Holliday, RSPB Midlands director, said, "Confirmation that the Nene Valley will go forward as an NIA is the best possible news for Northamptonshire's wildlife and local people. Today's announcement recognises and rewards the solid history of partnership working in the county. It allows us all to take the next big step up for nature in one of the Midlands' best places for wildlife."

Dr Jeff Ollerton, Reader in Biodiversity at the University of Northampton, said: "This is a once in a generation opportunity to establish the Nene Valley as a flagship region which delivers not just nature conservation but also the ecosystem services on which our society depends. The University of Northampton is delighted at the successful outcome of this collaboration with the Wildlife Trust and the other partners."

Martin Janes, Managing Director of the River Restoration Centre said, "The announcement of the Nene Valley NIA is excellent news. This strong partnership will deliver lasting improvements to the ecology of the river. This approach will showcase the multiple benefits that integration of resources and shared vision can achieve."

Cllr Ben Smith, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for environment, said: "The Nene Valley is a very special part of Northamptonshire so to be selected as a Nature Improvement Area is wonderful news for the county. The valley is somewhere where human activity takes place in a stunning natural environment so it is essential that a balance is maintained and we achieve a sustainable way of working together."

The NIAs were awarded funding by a panel of experts, led by Professor Sir John Lawton, and were a key commitment of the Natural Environment White Paper. Sir John Lawton said: "For more than 40 years I have had the privilege of working on nature-conservation issues in the UK, both as a professional scientist, and in the voluntary sector. Never in all that time have I seen the sort of creativity, partnership working and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA competition has released in consortia that want to deliver more effective conservation for England's wonderful wildlife in their area. Choosing 12 winners from 76 bids was an awfully difficult task, but I believe we have 12 outstanding NIAs, each unique in what it is setting out to achieve, for the benefits of people and wildlife."


Notes to editors:

  1. Defra launched a competition to fund an initial 12 NIAs in July 2011, judged by a panel led by Professor Sir John Lawton. Seventy-six applications were received and the panel selected 20 to go through to a second stage of the competition. Fifteen applicants were invited to give presentations to the panel and a final 12 NIAs were selected to receive government funding. The 12 successful partnerships will start work in April 2012.
  2. The Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) Programme with funding of £7.5 million has been established, as announced by Defra in the Natural Environment White Paper (2011). NIAs are large, discrete areas that will deliver a step change in nature conservation, where a local partnership has a shared vision for their natural environment. With the support of Natural England, Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, the partnership will plan and deliver significant improvements for wildlife and people through the sustainable use of natural resources, restoring and creating wildlife habitats, connecting local sites and joining up local action.
  3. The 12 government funded NIAs will be delivered by a variety of partnerships of local bodies, including ones led by farmers, NGOs, AONBs and a National Park.
  4. The Natural Environment White Paper set out Government's ambition to see further NIAs wherever the opportunities or benefits are the greatest driven by local knowledge. The option set out in NEWP for local authorities to recognise an NIA in their local plan is a continuation of current planning policy, not an extension of it. It is not the intention for NIAs to stifle sustainable development. It is a matter for local authorities to decide what weight they wish to give to NIAs in their local plans.