Ministers urged to put catchment partnerships at heart of new environment plan

Environmental experts have called for catchment partnerships to be boosted as part of the government’s new 25-year environment plan.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) has today called on ministers to give more powers and resources to the 100-plus catchment partnerships, which currently exist across England.

The catchment partnerships were introduced as a voluntary programme in 2011 and include local bodies, farmers and landowners, who work together to deliver the most effective ways to deliver flood and climate resilience.

According to a CIWEM report, the partnerships have delivered ‘significant environmental improvements’ in many areas.

It states the partnerships have delivered £8 in value for every £1 invested and increasingly, they are working to an ‘integrated land, water, environment and local economy agenda’.

And well-supported and resourced partnerships can ensure that ‘local priorities are identified through strong stakeholder engagements’.

But it warns the partnerships rely mainly on voluntary contributions.

‘Whilst some partnerships have extensive and diverse representation, others do not, so government should play a role in ensuring that all parties who should be engaged in management and decision-making are involved,’ the report states.

Role for partnerships post-Brexit

The report also urges ministers to involve catchment partnerships in the post-Brexit agricultural subsidy system.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has pledged an end to subsidies based primarily on farm size, instead promoting the principle of tying farm income to the delivery of social benefits, such as environmental improvements or flood storage.

‘The place should create a new farm payments system, which minimises risks to farm incomes from factors such as price volatility, whilst providing farms with an income stream associated with providing an extensive range of benefits to society,’ the report adds.

‘These benefits might be anything from flood storage to forestation for carbon sequestration, to protecting pollinator species or valuable landscapes.’

The government is also consulting on a new, independent body for environmental standards, to replace scrutiny and enforcement roles currently provided by the EU.

Greater government support needed

The report recommends that this body should also monitor progress against the 25-year plan, much as the current Committee on Climate Change monitors the country’s progress in meeting its climate change targets.

‘The catchment based approach has developed over the last six years to show how a wide range of stakeholders can collectively identify very cost-effective solutions to a range of increasingly critical challenges, such as biodiversity loss, water quality, soil fertility and flood resilience,’ said CIWEM chief executive, Terry Fuller.

‘The best examples of this represent a compelling model for how integrated solutions to complex problems can be delivered.

‘But to take it to the next level, the approach needs greater government weight and support behind it,’ added Mr Fuller.

‘It must be a cornerstone of the delivery of the government’s ambition on the environment and this hugely anticipated 25-year plan.’

Photo by Ribble Life Together

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Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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