Innovative project to help protect historic Peak District spa town at risk from flooding

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Nestlé Waters UK, the Environment Agency, Severn Trent and the Harris & Sheldon Group have joined forces with Moors for the Future Partnership in a natural capital financing initiative to fund critical upland restoration work in the Peak District.

It now means 80% of the project funding has been provided by private finance, alongside 20% from the Environment Agency, paving the way for commercial financing of essential moorland restoration.

Crucial restoration work including blocking of erosion gullies and sphagnum moss planting will create conditions where water may be held on the Combs Moss Moorland area above the Derbyshire town of Buxton in the Peak District for longer. Rewetting work will slow the flow of water from the moor, mitigating the risk of flooding in the town. In addition, increasing the amount of sphagnum moss present on the moor will enhance that effect, while also helping to increase biodiversity.

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The project aligns with the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan which states that, while the public sector will remain a source of funding for the natural environment, it is critical that this sits alongside private sector investment.

Vegetated gully on Combs MossVegetated gully on Combs Moss
Vegetated gully on Combs Moss

The Environment Agency aims to have 336,000 properties across the whole of England better protected from flooding by 2027 by committing funding across a series of innovative projects and nature-based solutions.

Local employer, Nestlé Waters UK, operates the BUXTON natural mineral water and NESTLÉ PURE LIFE spring water bottling site in Buxton and is supporting the project as part of its efforts to lead the regeneration of local water cycles through nature-based solutions that provide benefits to the watershed and community.

Additional funding provided by Severn Trent to plant sphagnum moss and other native plant species on the Combs Moss site continues a successful relationship between the water company and Moors for the Future Partnership, that links to Severn Trent’s aim to improve biodiversity across 5,000 hectares of the Severn Trent catchment area by 2027.

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By attracting funding for nature-based solutions, Moors for the Future Partnership will be able to complete works to rewet the moorland and slow the flow of water from the uplands into rivers, contributing to natural flood management for nearby communities like Buxton, where flooding has previously occurred along the convergence of two brooks which are of ongoing concern. Like all blanket bog moorland in the Peak District, it has been impacted by its close proximity to heavy industry and the pollution that was caused by the Industrial Revolution.

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Chris Dean, Partnership Manager for Moors for the Future Partnership, said:

“The Combs Moss restoration project represents a significant step for Moors for the Future Partnership. We now know that natural capital funding opportunities can successfully fund crucial moorland restoration work now and into the future.

“Exploring these new funding opportunities allows us to continue restoration work at the kind of landscape scale that is needed and at the pace that is required.

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“Development funding from the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, Defra and the Environment Agency enabled us to explore this new flexible funding model that means we may be able to continue our moorland restoration work for decades to come.

“With Environment Agency funding, we were able to do a mapping exercise to identify where restoration work may help communities at risk of flooding. We are happy to announce the commencement of work on the moors above Buxton, which represents a great success for the work of the team and the partners.”

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Hayley Lloyd House, Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Nestlé Waters UK said:

“Nestlé Waters are excited to be involved in the Combs Moss restoration project, it's an important opportunity to invest in regenerating the local ecosystem around Buxton. The project will positively influence the water balance in the landscape and hills to the north west of Buxton, helping mitigate future risk of flooding and bring real benefits for the communities that live and work in the lower-lying areas around the town centre.

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“Climate change is making a huge impact across the globe, resulting in increasing water challenges that include drought and flooding. As water stewards and part of the Buxton community, we must continue to collaborate to find solutions that restore and build resilience in our natural environment.

“Our water regeneration projects go beyond the factory gates to help tackle shared local water challenges. This project is a great example of being a part of a collaborative ecosystem service funding initiative, that will benefit nature alongside local businesses and communities for decades to come, something we have long been working towards for Buxton.”

Environment Agency said:

“The Environment Agency has successfully partnered with Moors for the Future Partnership on a number of innovative projects across the Peak District and South Pennine moors. Scientific monitoring is an important part of these projects to understand how moorland restoration can help to reduce flood risk to downstream communities.

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“Work on Combs Moss will be monitored extensively to record the impact of moorland restoration on the Upper Derwent catchment and local communities at flood risk, such as the Peak District town of Buxton.”