Natural Capital – video transcript

Natural Course:

An innovative approach to improve and protect the water environment in Northwest England.

Krista Patrick, Natural Capital Coordinator, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

So Natural Course is a unique collaborative project, among public, private and third sectors.  It’s looking at innovative ways of working to address some of the real key issues around improving our rivers and catchments in the northwest of England, and in particular, looking at how we address good ecological status in our rivers and catchments to meet the EU’s Water Framework Directive requirements.

The Natural Capital Approach

So the natural capital approach is predominantly, and very simply put, is about how we understand the benefits from our natural environment.  Often these are hidden and overlooked in terms of decision making.  So it’s about how we actually understand and value those benefits to society.  We can use a range of tools to do that, particularly natural capital accounts that look at actually putting a kind of value on those benefits to society.  If we don’t actively continue to protect and maintain our natural environment, whether that’s our trees, our rivers, there is actually a cost to society if we don’t continue to do that.

So Natural Course has played a key role, particularly in terms of raising its profile, in terms of our key stakeholders and partners, and particularly in terms of our politicians around this, and also in informing key strategic policies such as the Greater Manchester Five Year Environment plan.  But also around financing and Natural Course has played a key role around looking at innovative financing and how we address the funding gaps in terms of the solutions, and looking at setting up a Greater Manchester Environment Fund.

Bringing the River Irk to Life – using a natural capital approach to help transform the river into a thriving waterway.

Katherine Causer, Catchment Coordinator, Environment Agency.

We’re on the banks of the River Irk here in Manchester.  As you can see, it is very built up.  It has suffered quite severely in the past through its industrial legacy.  Poor water quality, lack of habitat, lack of biodiversity, so plenty of challenges for us to try and sort out.

‘Bringing the River Irk to Life’ is a Natural Course funded project, so it’s got money from the EU, and it’s all about taking a natural capital approach to improving the whole river, not just small pieces of it.  We want to take that catchment based approach and look at it very holistically to see how we can bring about improvements.  Right from the beginning, we made the decision that we were going to take a natural capital approach.  So that is looking about how we can make the river work for us, how we can improve on those ecosystem services that it can provide and do a natural capital assessment of what that means in a monetary value.  And we’re hoping that will help us draw in funding and investment, when people can see that actually by improving green and blue spaces you can have a financial uplift, as well as environmental and social benefits.

So as part of Natural Course, the ‘BRIL’ project is going to deliver this action plan.  And lots of rivers have action plans, so what makes this a bit different?  What makes the Natural Course project stand out?  And I think it is that natural capital approach that we’ve taken.  You know, we’ve tried to look at what al the benefits are of doing actions around the river and try to get the most out of it, and to demonstrate that investment in the river actually pays dividends, and it has wider benefits that just being good for the environment.

So, we’ve moved out of the city centre now, and we’re in an area called Hendan Vale.  So as part of the BRIL action plan, we’ve identified this area as a key place where we could start reconnecting the river to the floodplain, which would help reduce flood risk further downstream.  There are also fantastic opportunities to improve the biodiversity and improve access for people to come and enjoy the river and get closer to it.

So, we’ve moved well out of Manchester city now, in fact, we’re in Rochdale district.  We’re in a beautiful country park called Alkrington Woods.  And while it is absolutely beautiful here, there are still challenges, still challenges for the river and for the green space.  Whilst natural capital around Alkrington Woods is very good, particularly from a biodiversity and a green space accessibility point of view, we can still make the functionality of it better by reconnecting to the floodplain, by removing the invasive species and by doing those river restoration projects that, you know, help to build the functionality of this beautiful green space.

Natural Course has been integral in us being able to develop the action plans for the River Irk.  By the end of this phase of the BRIL project, we will have a comprehensive action plan for the whole of the river from Oldham through Rochdale down to Manchester city centre.

This programme has been made possible with the support of EU LIFE IP funding – project number: LIFE14/IPE/UK/0027