Natural England Discovery Grants open to fund restoration projects

Natural England has launched the first round of Discovery Grants, as part of the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, to help support the development of new projects which seek to restore peatland systems to a natural and healthy state across the country.

Through the Scheme, the Government intends to invest over £50 million in peat restoration and has pledged to restore approximately 35,000ha of peatland in England by the end of this Parliament. Accompanying the main Restoration Grants, the Discovery Grants are available for organisations to scope and develop sites for peatland restoration.

As England’s largest carbon store on land, peatlands play a vital role in trapping carbon, and also provide a wealth of wider benefits such as improved ecosystems and biodiversity, better water quality and natural flood management. However, only 13% of England’s peatlands are in a near natural state. These Discovery Grants provide applicants with the opportunity to receive financial  support to  develop  ambitious restoration proposals, making a difference to England’s peatland habitats.

There will be two rounds of bidding, with applications for the first round of Discovery Grants opening today and closing on Wednesday 1st September.

Applications for the Discovery Grant funding may include:

  • developing new peat partnerships and projects and engaging new partners or landowners
  • building capacity and capability in emerging peat partnerships
  • exploring opportunities for private investment funding
  • developing site understanding, including baseline monitoring, hydrological and ecological surveys or historic environment assessments

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:  “Our peatlands are remarkable habitats which provide homes for many precious species and peat holds enormous amounts of carbon. When peatlands are damaged or degraded it is estimated they release around 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, so preserving these vital habitats is hugely important in addressing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The launch of the Peatland Discovery Grant will empower organisations to create their own peat restoration projects. We have recently committed to triple our historic average annual peat restoration figures and this grant which we are launching today will be critical in enabling projects to reach a stage where they can apply for our restoration grants in future.”

Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, said: “Our peatlands exemplify the multiple benefits society can reap from healthy natural systems. They store a vast quantity of carbon, captured from the atmosphere by plants living long ago, they purify and store water, enabling rivers to run steady and clear while at the same time reducing flood risk. They are also wonderful wildlife habitats, supporting some of our most iconic species, and peat covers some of our most beautiful landscapes, including in the National Parks that we hope during the years ahead even more people will enjoy. By restoring peatlands, we can protect and increase all of these valuable benefits.

“Our new grant is a vital foot-up, encouraging and enabling partnerships to develop much more ambitious and extensive proposals to restore the integrity and quality of peat systems across large landscape areas, contributing to a wider Nature Recovery Network. I am really looking forward to seeing how they progress and we urge any interested groups to apply for a Discovery Grant.”

The Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme is a great step towards reversing the current decline in England’s peatlands. The recently announced England Peat Action Plan also sets out a host of further actions we will take to ensure our peatlands are functioning healthily for the needs of the planet.

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