The Nene Valley was chosen in 2012 as one of 12 flagship Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) for England that received Government funding to make the area better for wildlife, people and the economy. Since then, experts from the University of Northampton alongside more than 20 other organisations have been working together to create, restore or preserve nearly 20,000 hectares of England’s natural habitat (that’s the equivalent of almost 23,000 football pitches!)
Last week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the final report to showcase the achievements of these areas. The ‘Monitoring and Evaluation of Nature Improvement Areas: Final Report’ details how NIAs are helping to protect wildlife and connect people with nature, while providing a boost to rural economies.
The University of Northampton’s Professor of Biodiversity, Jeff Ollerton, who led the University’s contribution to the Nene Valley project, explained: “A great deal was achieved for nature conservation in Northamptonshire and other parts of England following the government’s initial investment of £7.5 million over three years. Continuation of this type of funding, for the original 12 NIAs and additional projects, would achieve so much more, especially if it was tied in with upland and river restoration projects that focused on natural flood defences. The potential savings from such investment could run into 100s of millions of pounds. Let’s hope Defra has the strategic vision to make this happen.”
Environment Minister Rory Stewart said: “Our beautiful natural environment is vitally important to our national identity. We owe a huge thanks to the many people who made these projects possible. We must now look to make sure these remarkable results are long lasting and help to connect the British public with nature. The work of the Nature Improvement Areas will be central to how we think about the environment over the next twenty-five years.”
The Nature Improvement Areas have also helped people reconnect with nature, with volunteers contributing over 47,000 days, school children earning their green fingers by planting trees, and communities getting involved in decision making.
Thanks to work carried out through the initiative, the areas could now see a boost to tourism, helping to generate jobs and enhance our valuable rural economy which is worth £210 billion to the UK’s growing prosperity.