Natural Course features in important State of the Urban Environment report

  • The Environment Agency has published the State of the Urban Environment report (20 July 2021)

  • Natural Course case study features in ‘urban water’ section

The launch of the Environment Agency’s State of the Urban Environment report took place this week (20 July) at a virtual event, hosted by Global Action Plan.

The report looks at the state of the urban environment in England, outlining some of the challenges created by urban areas for managing natural resources and waste, and the links between urban environments and wider environmental issues.  It also includes natural capital in cities and the benefits of urban green and blue spaces for wildlife and people, as well as highlighting environmental inequalities in urban areas.

Featuring as a case study in the ‘urban water’ section, Natural Course was able to raise awareness that the North West faces significant water issues and give an overview of the innovative ways of working being undertaken to address the biggest barriers to improvement.

Dave Marshall, Natural Course Programme Manager said…

It is great to be able to highlight to a wide audience how the unique mix of organisations making up Natural Course has driven innovation and improvements by aligning investment to deliver bigger, multi-benefit projects.  These projects have resulted in continued innovation in areas/topics such as local governance of the water environment, embedding a natural capital approach, and the financing of natural flood management and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).  This collaborative way of working has influenced £41 million worth of activities that benefit the environment from an investment of £12.5 million”.

The virtual launch event focused on environmental inequality and how poorer communities have higher exposure to air pollution, flood risk and poor water quality in rivers – issues which must not be ignored in the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan speech “Clean Up, Green Up and Level Up: how to build a future city” suggested it is right to be focusing on levelling up, but that more needs to be done to “clean up, green up and level up”, building on work the Environment Agency is doing with partners to improve air quality, stop pollution, and create more opportunities for the people to connect with nature.

“Investing in a better environment, whether that’s a park, a flood defence or a clean river, will create jobs and growth. Since the worst environments tend to be in the poorest places, tackling them is a double win it will make poorer communities both greener and richer. And because of the link between your environment and your health, environmental inequalities contribute to associated inequalities in health and wellbeing too.”

To ‘clean up’ we need to continue the fight against pollution, especially in the face of new pollutants and new pressures of population growth and the climate emergency; to ‘green up’ we need local authorities, developers and city planners to create a fairer proportion of green and blue spaces in cities – this could include creating local parks, improving urban waterways, planting trees around buildings, reducing flooding and providing other pockets of nature for people to enjoy; and to ‘level up’ we need to understand the importance of environment inequalities in tackling social injustices. This means paying better attention to fixing environmental problems where poorer urban communities live – because those problems tend to be worse and more harmful.

You can read the full State of the Urban Environment report here (external website, opens in new tab): The state of the environment: the urban environment – GOV.UK (