Celebrating two decades of rubbish help for biodiversity


Tuesday 19 September, 2017


It feels counterintuitive - the waste we produce helping to restore habitats and conserve some of Norfolk’s most vulnerable species, but that is what has been happening for the past 20 years. Kate Aldridge, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Senior Grants Officer takes a look at some of the projects that have benefitted from the Landfill Communities Fund.

Back in 1996 the government set up the UK’s first environmental tax, the Landfill Tax, a charge on each tonne of waste sent to landfill. It aimed to encourage Landfill Operators to re-use, recycle and recover more waste to reduce the amount going to landfill sites. It has been very successful. To encourage engagement in the process, the Landfill Operators have been allowed to redirect a proportion of their tax liability to community and environmental projects in the vicinity of their landfill sites and facilities, known as the ‘Landfill Communities Fund’ or LCF. Across the UK more than £1.3 billion has been put towards more than 50,000 projects, which either improve the life of communities or aid nature conservation. Since 1997, Norfolk Wildlife Trust has been fortunate in being granted approaching £2.5 million for such projects.

For NWT it began with the support of WREN to help build a visitor centre at Weeting and continues today with WREN and BIFFA Award funded projects running at Roydon Common, Dereham Stream Fens (Scarning Fen and Rush Meadows), Cranwich Camp and one just starting close to Barton Broad at Catfield Fen.

Some of the first projects focused on improving information and access for visitors and if you have recently visited Ranworth's Broads Wildlife Centre, parked at Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe or been up the tree tower at Hickling Broad you will have directly benefitted from some of the many improvements the LCF has allowed us to make.

The distributors of the LCF rapidly recognised a role for themselves in supporting projects aimed at conserving wildlife and quickly the funding broadened to the beneficiaries being not just human visitors to our nature reserves but many of the inhabitants too. Fen orchids and swallowtails butterflies now have hundreds of acres of scrub-free fen flourish at Upton; natterjack toad ponds have been restored at Holme; common cranes have areas of habitat created and managed specifically for their foraging needs at South Walsham. Water voles have many miles of restored dykes in which to prosper. And beyond these specific species, assemblages and communities of insects and plants are now thriving in restored and newly created habitats across Norfolk, thanks to commitment to biodiversity provided by the landfill companies.

In many cases the funding has shown enormous trust in our vision for landscape-scale conservation. One such project was ‘Rebuilding the Bure Valley’, which received close to half a million pounds to help restore the viability of the middle reaches of the Bure Valley wetland system and initiated major restoration of habitats at Upton fen and marshes, Ranworth Broad and South Walsham Marshes and connected large areas of land under conservation management across the Living Landscape. Upton Marshes, not so long ago cultivated for crops, is now developing into a hugely valuable wet grassland for wintering and breeding habitat for waders such as lapwing and redshank.

At the same time, WREN put similar faith in a landscape-scale project at Hickling, which aimed to create a wetland with controllable water levels to manage the reserve’s adaption to the predicted rising water levels due to climate change. By doing this the project made a significant step towards re-connecting parts of the Broad’s drained marshes to the existing undrained fens. It is now progressing towards increasing the resilience of existing populations of the reserve’s key species, such as bitterns, cranes and swallowtail butterflies.

SITA / SUEZ funded many restoration projects across Norfolk. Perhaps the most innovative was creation of a transition habitat between the heathland of Grimston Warren and the wet grassland of the Gaywood valley at The Delft. The work involved the careful rebraiding of a water flows from Grimston Warren and seeding and planting cross-leaved heath to attempt to create wet heath, the results of which are still developing.

The common thread between all the projects funded through the LCF is that NWT would not have been able to deliver them with such a degree of confidence, scale - and in many cases at all - without the fund and the additional resources that their faith in our projects has inspired in other funders.
 
Recycling is becoming second-nature in the way we sort our rubbish and the amount going to landfill has reduced by 50% since 1995. This has lead to the closure of many of Norfolk’s landfill sites. In the greater scheme of things, this is welcome news but the concern is that we are beginning to see the tail-end of this funding in Norfolk along with the enormous benefits for conservation it has brought. However, these benefits, with careful management, will last long into the future and leave much for us and the landfill distributors to celebrate.
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