We’ve had exciting news that Connecting the Culm has just been awarded an £73,000 grant by DEFRA’s Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) to help us attract private green finance for nature-based solutions in the catchment. The funding will be used to develop projects to become “investment-ready”, which means that they have been fully detailed so that investors (who could include pension funds, ethical funds, businesses or individual investors) feel confident in putting their money in the pot.

Our research shows that the cost of building climate-change resilience in the catchment, via new nature-based solutions, is at least £3.6m. We have already attracted substantial public investment towards this target, but we know that more funding is needed to restore the River Culm to good health. Blending public and private funds is one way to make this happen.

Our application to NEIRF was supported by Mid-Devon District Council, South West Water, The National Trust and Network Rail, all of whom are interested in green investment.

The outcomes we want to achieve for the River Culm are to:

  • establish 360 hectares of new woodland and tree cover
  • restore function to 1000 hectares of vulnerable & compacted soils
  • restore ecological and hydrological function and condition to 3000 hectares of existing priority habitat.
  • make 300 properties and businesses at risk from flooding more resilient
  • provide £2.6 million carbon benefits over a 50-year time span
  • reduce peak flows at Hele railway crossing by 10%
  • create new access opportunities to 2.5km of the river.

The NEIRF project has three main strands, which we’ll be working on from September 2022 through to June 2023.

  1. Natural Capital Farm Investment Plans

This strand will develop detailed farm-based Natural Capital Investment Plans, working with around 30 landowners and managers. Each plan will identify for each farm:

  • the potential ecosystem service benefits achievable
  • the investment needed to make them happen
  • what other funding sources may be available
  • what the investment gap is.
  1. Natural Capital Assessment

This strand will project the value of ecosystem services across the catchment, based on the individual farm plans but scaling these up, and exploring how benefits overlap and add value as network effects are created.

  1. Natural Capital Revenue Streams

This strand will engage with potential buyers of the ecosystem service benefits to explore their needs and a range of solutions.

  • effectively communicate the ecosystem services benefits available and explain how they will be packaged and secured for buyers.
  • explore buyers’ appetite for purchasing ecosystem services.
  • establish the methods and conditions required to attract investors, for example establishing a River Culm Habitat Bank, which can attract funds for biodiversity net gain when development takes place in the catchment.

If you’re a landowner looking to sell ecosystem benefits, or a potential buyer of those benefits, and you’d like to be kept in touch with the project as it develops, please let us know by contacting Tim Youngs at hello@connectingtheculm.com.