Society needs water for life. To provide this, we need to reduce pollution that comes from the way land is used and improve the landscape through which water flows.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has created the Catchment Restoration Fund to support this aim.
The Environment Agency is administering the Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF) to support third sector groups to bring forward projects that will at a catchment level:
- restore natural features in and around watercourses
- reduce the impact of man-made structures on wildlife in watercourses
- reduce the impact of diffuse pollution that arises from rural and urban land use
How the CRF is administered and how funding is awarded
By the end of May 2012, we received 131 applications for over £54 million of work during two rounds of bidding this year.
A national panel chaired by the Environment Agency, with representatives from Defra and Natural England, considered the assessment to recommend grant awards, with the River Restoration Centre acting in an advisory capacity.
To date, 42 projects have been approved with a combined value of £24.5 million. Approval was given to those projects which are of a high priority within their catchment as assessed by liaison panels, and where the technical experts in the Environment Agency, Natural England and the River Restoration Centre had high confidence in delivery. Many of the successful bids embraced partnership funding, collaborative working, and in some cases also supported innovation.
Anticipated impact of the successful applications
As a result of these projects, over three hundred water bodies will receive habitat improvement, improved access for fish or reductions in diffuse pollution, making significant steps towards more waters at good status as well as providing wider benefits to society and the environment.
These funds also bolster the contributions from hundreds of partners in local communities, led by charitable organisations such as river trusts, wildlife trusts, the RSPB and other local action groups.
Jerry Gallop (Technical Manager, Catchment Restoration Fund) said, "We are really pleased with the responses we've received. It has shown us how the Catchment Restoration Fund can be a catalyst for ideas and community action and administering it can help us engage with our third sector partners. Even where bids were unsuccessful, we can work with the applicants to get their project off the ground."
CRF is all about making connections
David Baxter, Environment Agency's Head of Catchment Management said, "The CRF is focused on water, but, where possible, connections to a wider range of benefits are being supported. A lot of the projects it funds are about restoring natural connections along rivers (removing barriers) and between the rivers and their landscape (restoring habitats).
"The fund allows charities to connect local people and businesses to actions they can take to improve their environment. Because it's about catchments, it connects farmers and businesses to the impacts their land use has on the water environment. And it connects existing actions at a catchment scale, so that they have greater effect."
If the fund is a success, Defra will bid for further funding to continue it within the next spending review. Evaluating benefits is therefore a key part of the process. We will be guiding applicants to capture and share their experience, learning from each CRF project.
The Environment Agency and Defra are always keen to hear from practitioners on how we can improve our approach and what is going well to inform the ongoing development of the fund.
Is there a deadline for further bids?
The Environment Agency and Defra are committed to delivering the current CRF Programme to the maximum benefit of the environment and meeting requirements of the Water Framework Directive.
However, due to the need to accommodate some increased financial pressures from some projects and from delays caused by bad weather, there is less flexibility left in the fund than previously thought. In addition, there is a continued need for Defra to manage spending so that it can address a wide range of important environmental issues whilst living within its available funding.
We can therefore confirm that we are not in a position to run a third round of the fund in March 2013.
We know that there are many organisations that had been looking to a third round. Indeed there are many projects that did not receive funding in rounds one and two, anticipating a third round too. The Environment Agency will actively pursue and advise on alternative sources of funding for strong project proposals. Further guidance to help with this will be produced in the new year.
Other opportunities for funding
There may be other sources of funding available to deliver catchment improvements. For more information, see our guidance document:
The Environment Agency is working with other potential funders to see how CRF bids could gain support. For instance, we are writing to water companies to encourage them to look at opportunities to tackle challenges in their business areas using CRF projects. In the long term, this could mean lower water bills for customers too.
Successful applications to date
See the list of approved projects from the first two rounds:
For general enquiries about the fund please email the CRF technical team:
To discuss potential projects please contact the River Basin Programme Manager that covers the area where your proposed work would occur:
- Contact your River Basin Programme Manager