Envisioning Landscape Scale Change: Cheshire Hub Host Weaver-Gowy Workshop

Climate change, poor water quality, flooding, drought, pollution and habitat loss are all environmental issues we are facing.

For positive change, we need to start looking at how we can work together and go above and beyond the statutory requirements of our organisations to develop a holistic view of landscape scale restoration that has wider environmental benefits for nature and people.

Several organisations have responsibilities and interests in the operation of catchments ands a result, catchment management is often fractured. Activities are often delivered in isolation without a joined up approach; resources are not always focused on understanding what is going on in the whole catchment to ensure that operational interventions are targeted in the right areas for the greatest benefit.

Forming in Phase 3 of Natural Course, the Cheshire Hub (opens in new tab) has brought together key organisations to work collaboratively and develop a joined-up, improved understanding of the challenges happening across the catchments of Cheshire. The Hub aimed to identify operational issues, decide on the likely cause and target interventions at the right locations to deliver the greatest benefit.

Outcomes from Phase 3 include:

  • The production of the Valley Brook Catchment Action Plan (opens in new tab), detailing improvement work within the valley. This led to the development of the Valley Brook Partnership which engaged local authorities, water NGOs and local action groups to support the delivery of actions. The group secured £2.9 million of central government regeneration funding to restore a section of Valley Brook and provide a green transport route along Valley Brook Corridor.
  • The development of three natural capital farm plans across two key landowners (Tatton Estate and Grosvenor Estate). The farm plans successfully identified opportunities for greener farming methods and changes in land management that deliver environmental improvements.
  • Carrying out trials to test innovative technologies to deliver water quality improvements. The trial took inspiration from technology which had been proven in sewage treatment, to understand if it can be used to remove nutrients from river water.

Moving into Phase 4 of Natural Course, the hub (opens in new tab) wanted to maintain its collaborative way of working to continue to understand and respond to new and emerging barriers to delivery. A key area of focus that was identified by the hub was the need to move beyond localised, small scale catchment interventions, instead developing landscape scale restoration that has wider environmental benefits for nature and people. After reviewing existing groups and projects across Cheshire, it was felt that the Weaver-Gowy catchment presented itself as a natural fit in encouraging a landscape approach to be taken amongst key stakeholders and groups across the catchment. The Weaver-Gowy’s proximity to Manchester and possible large-scale infrastructure developments such as High Speed Rail (HS2) lends itself well to the potential to securing funding opportunities for landscape scale restoration. Hence, the ambition and ideas for landscape scale restoration and development must be there.

The in-person workshop was held at Quarry Bank Mill and included input from 20 key stakeholders across the catchment. Stakeholders included the Environment Agency, Natural England, United Utilities, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Canal and River Trust, Duchy of Lancaster, Crewe Town Council, and Cheshire East Council.

The workshop started with a discussion around the need for taking a landscape scale approach followed by insights into best practice across the catchment and further afield with input from Nature North, Cheshire Landscape Partnership Group, Natural England presenting on the Lost Wetlands Project and United Utilities presenting on Place Based Planning and Integrated Water Management Planning. The group were then asked to visualise what an ideal Weaver-Gowy catchment would look like and how this would function before discussing how this could be made reality.

Ideas from the workshop written on a piece of papter

Cheshire Hub workshop ideas

All attendees brought significant insight and expertise from across the catchment which fed into discussions on a variety of cross-sectional themes including water quality, water quantity, agriculture, access and recreation and innovative financing. Attendees on the day agreed that there would be value in pursuing this approach for the catchment, with the Cheshire Hub, alongside others, agreeing to review how further resources can be mobilised to support this.