Report spies opening for water firms in "natural infrastructure delivery"

Think tank Green Alliance and conservation charity the National Trust have proposed in a report the formation of a new type of private enterprise to bolster private investment in nature-friendly farming – and improve water quality and management – after Brexit.

The groups said DEFRA’s replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy with the environmental land management system could facilitate and provide seed funding for new "natural infrastructure delivery companies". They saw these as “co-operative style businesses which could be owned jointly by both farmers and the downstream businesses [water companies and others] benefiting from environmental enhancements. Through these new entities farmers could jointly plan schemes and share the risks involved in long term sustainable land management enterprise with other businesses.”

The report, Funding nature’s future: how new public spending can unlock private investment, forms part of a collaborative project, led by the National Trust and Green Alliance, and supported by Southern Water. The aim of the project is to develop and catalyse new market solutions to support sustainable land management on UK farmland – a new approach to managing land for profit and the environment.

Shaun Spiers, executive director at Green Alliance said: “Given the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, substantial public funding for environmental land management will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future. But we now also have a great opportunity to unlock private investment in enlightened land management. Natural Infrastructure Schemes are clearly economically viable; this report shows how farmers and businesses can come together to make them work for mutual benefit – and for wider public benefit.”

Kate Rice, catchment strategy manager at Southern Water said: “Southern Water are planning to double their investment in sustainable land management from 2020 onwards. This exciting proposal has the potential to draw in other private beneficiaries to boost these schemes and achieve the scale and innovation needed to restore our environment.”

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