Calderdale’s innovative approaches to nature conservation and natural flood control have been highlighted in a significant national report.

The report titled ‘Powers in Place: Nature’ by UK100 examines the authority local councils possess in driving nature preservation, combatting climate change, and fostering health and well-being benefits through encouraging interaction with the natural environment.

UK100 is a network of local leaders who have committed to spearheading a swift shift towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions ahead of the government’s legal objective.

The recently released report delineates the legislation, tactics, and directives that empower councils to safeguard and enrich wildlife, reinstate biodiversity, and promote the recovery of nature. It underscores the necessity for sustained investment and policies at a national level, shedding light on concerning statistics such as one in five Britons residing in areas lacking access to green spaces, and a 41% decline in all UK species since the 1970s.

From urban planning to peatland preservation, ‘Powers in Place: Nature’ offers positive examples from various regions of local authorities resourcefully utilising their powers. Calderdale is featured in two exemplar case studies:

Combatting invasive species – Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed, and Giant Hogweed are non-indigenous species contributing to flood vulnerability in Calderdale. Various organisations, including the Council, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Yorkshire Invasive Species Forum, Forus Tree, River Stewardship Company, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, and Yorkshire Integrated Solutions Programme, collaborate to address the issue. They encourage local participation in tackling Himalayan Balsam by clearing it before it blooms, and they professionally manage the other two species.

Reducing flood risk to communities through natural means – the Council, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, along with several third-sector and community organisations such as Calder & Colne Rivers Trust, National Trust, Slow The Flow, Treesponsibility, Forus Tree, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, have devised measures for natural flood management. These measures aim to diminish and slow down the surges of water entering rivers following intense rainfall, thereby mitigating flood risks. Techniques encompass porous dams, ponds, afforestation, and cross-slope hedgerows, which concurrently benefit the natural habitat.

Projects of this nature are instrumental in fostering nature revival and enhancing biodiversity. Nevertheless, the UK100 report reveals that on a national scale, initiatives are often propelled forward amidst strained resources, policy ambiguities, and funding delays, impeding progress for local areas across the UK.

Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Action, Active Travel and Housing, is one of only 20 councillors across the UK to secure a place in UK100’s Climate Leadership Academy. He said; “Here in Calderdale, we’re acutely aware of the urgent need for nature restoration. From tackling invasive species to natural flood management, the Council and our partner organisations are committed to pioneering work that makes a real difference. It’s a testament to this work for it to be used as an example of best practice for other local authorities across the UK.

“However, these efforts are not without their challenges. To truly turn the tide, we need long-term government funding and a cohesive, strategic approach. Only then can we hope to make meaningful strides in restoring our natural environment for future generations.”

The Wilder Calderdale partnership is set to launch soon, building upon the innovative nature restoration work featured in the report. This collaborative effort will see local nature organisations striving to safeguard and rejuvenate wildlife and untamed spaces across the borough.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Chair of UK100’s Countryside Climate Network and Leader of Wiltshire Council, said; “Local authorities are crucial to bringing our natural world back from the brink. Our planning teams, highways officers, rangers and volunteers are all vital in protecting our wildlife and making space for nature to recover and thrive.

“Local leaders are already blazing a trail up and down the UK, from Cheshire to Wiltshire. But we urgently need ministers to provide proper long-term funding and a coherent policy framework so all parts of local government can work together to tackle the nature crisis.”