£11.5m extra funding announced to boost tree planting, habitat restoration and flood management across England through the Water Environment Improvement Fund.

  • Millions of pounds of extra funding to boost tree planting, habitat restoration and flood management
  • Expanded fund to help plant thousands of trees and improve the quality of rivers up and down the country
  • 180 projects set to benefit, including in York, Lincolnshire and North Devon

Local projects across England will be able to clean up lakes and rivers, protect communities from flooding and plant thousands of trees, thanks to £11.5 million of government support. 

The funding, which includes money from the Nature for Climate Fund, will also unlock up to an extra £11.5 million from organisations including the National Lottery, local rivers and wildlife trusts or from private investment, bringing the total possible investment to £23 million. 

This uplift will be allocated to local catchment partnerships through the Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF) supporting 180 local projects across England. Projects to be funded this year include:

  • The Limestone Becks River Restoration project in Lincolnshire, which will provide improved habitats for wildlife from water voles to invertebrates;
  • Phase II of The York Urban Becks project, which aims to create a more natural river course and support local habitats; and
  • The Woods for Devon project, creating woodlands to improve water quality, support wildlife, and carbon capture.

Overall, the additional funding is expected to lead to an additional 300km of English rivers being protected and improved. It will also support the creation and restoration of around 160 hectares of inland and coastal waters.

Catchment partnerships take a collaborative approach to improving river quality and enhancing biodiversity at a catchment level, using local knowledge and expertise. 

They bring together government, local authorities, landowners, local eNGOs, regulators, farmers, academia, local businesses and water companies.

Delivered by the Environment Agency, the Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF) was established in 2016 and funds projects that deliver on the government commitments set out in the Plan for Water to ensure clean and plentiful water for the future. 

Water Minister Robbie Moore MP said:

These local catchment partnerships do excellent work and I am pleased that we are able to give this additional funding to help deliver projects where rivers need it most.

It builds on recent measures to clean up our rivers including consulting on a ban on water company bonuses, launching a new Water Restoration Fund to reinvest water company fines and penalties back into the water environment, and a fourfold increase in Environment Agency inspections.

Chair of the Environment Agency Alan Lovell said:

We welcome this uplift in funding for local projects across the country which will help us work collaboratively with a range of organisations and stakeholders to achieve our ambitions for the water environment.

It builds on the steps we are taking to improve water quality and protect the environment, including expanding our specialised workforce and increase water company inspections this year, along with our powers to levy uncapped penalties on those who pollute our waterways.

CEO of The Rivers Trust Mark Lloyd said:

Increased funding is a very important ingredient in the recipe for successfully restoring our rivers to good health and so this is welcome news.

We are increasingly seeing the private and philanthropic sectors getting involved to match this kind of funding which enables this government support to go even further, enabling us to have a greater positive impact in more places.

In recent years, the Fund has supported a number of projects across the country. In 2021-22, £888,000 was given to the Developing the Natural Aire project in Yorkshire to install fish passes. It resulted in 50km of habitat being reconnected, 8,410 trees being planted and delivered 220 volunteer days and 123 community events.

The £11.5 million funding uplift is in addition to the existing £3 million the Environment Agency has already been allocated for this financial year for local project to improve water quality.

Today’s announcement follows recent measures delivered to improve the water environment, including:  

  • A new £11m Water Restoration Fund to reinvest water company fines and penalties back into the water environment.   
  • Requiring companies to monitor 100% of storm overflows in England – providing a complete picture of when and where sewage spills happen.      
  • Removing the cap on civil penalties for water companies and broadening their scope so swifter action can be taken against those who pollute our waterways.      
  • Requiring the largest infrastructure programme in water company history – £60 billion over 25 years – to revamp ageing assets and reduce the number of sewage spills by hundreds of thousands every year.       
  • Increasing protections for coastal and estuarine waters by expanding the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, prioritising bathing waters, sites of special scientific interest and shellfish waters.   
  • A targeted plan to better preserve and protect the River Wye, including £35m in funding.  
  • Speeding up the process of building key water supply infrastructure, including more reservoirs and water transfer schemes. 
Published 8 May 2024