A GROUP of leading environmental organisations in the North of England have welcomed the call for nature to be put at the heart of plans for economic recovery in the North.

The recommendations from the new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research North calls for a ‘Plan for Nature in the North’, and details how investment from government in the restoration of nature can be a stimulus for future prosperity – a proposal wholeheartedly welcomed by the group, currently known as Nature North.

Nature North brings together leading environmental organisations working in the North of England, to deliver nature recovery at a strategic scale.

The group is working closely with the 11 northern Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), through the group known as the NP11, who are keen to see greener growth and recovery from Covid–19 in the area.

Through the work of the Northern Powerhouse, the importance of natural heritage in creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns, cities and counties, and the positive impact it can have on local economies is being further recognised, and Nature North is dedicated to working together to amplify this message.

Home to world renowned natural landscapes; from the rugged coastlines of Northumberland, to the picturesque surroundings of the Pennines, to the sprawling Yorkshire Dales, the natural environment of the North is hugely diverse and distinctive.

As a result, the new report from IPPR North proposes that a regional approach to investment is urgently needed.

In turn, the report states that investment in projects to restore the nature of the North will reap substantial social, environmental, and economic benefits for the area.

With Nature North bringing together wide ranging expertise, the group will work collaboratively over the coming months to develop some priority proposals for nature recovery in the area, in line with the recommendations of the report.

David Renwick, director of England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Safeguarding the nature of the North, and aiding its recovery, has been identified as a key priority for The National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are encouraged that we are not the only organisation who sees the benefits of investing in nature in the North – environmentally, socially, and economically. Working with our partners in Nature North, and bringing together the vast knowledge that each organisation holds, We are eager to collaborate in moving forward."

As a collective, we have already begun to think about how we make this a reality, and how we ensure that everyone can benefit from nature. If the current Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is the great importance of the nature on our doorsteps in the North of England, particularly in yielding greater health and wellbeing, and a green recovery will ensure greater prosperity for the area.”

Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, representing the northern AONBs, said: “From the coasts of Northumberland and the Solway to the uplands of Bowland and the North Pennines, the north’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be and can be our showcases for nature recovery, as well as just being beautiful landscapes. We hope the IPPR report can stimulate action around better resourcing and stronger collaboration; the AONB teams are ambitious about what can be achieved.”

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs at the Woodland Trust, said it was vital the environment is placed firmly on the Northern Powerhouse agenda. The Trust and four community forests are spearheading the Northern Forest as well as a range of other native woodland and habitat creation initiatives across the region.

She said: "We welcome this report, which rightly draws attention to the interplay between the health and wealth of Northern England and that of its natural assets. Woodland cover in this region is well below the national average, despite the substantial and growing evidence of the very real environmental, social and economic benefits that woods and trees can bring to individuals, to communities and to the local economy. The Northern Forest is a bold, collaborative and bottom-up initiative to transform the situation, to plant at least 50 million trees and deliver nature-based solutions to a range of problems, from wildlife declines and flooding to poor air and water quality. This transformational change requires ambition, innovation and collaboration from the North's political and business leaders to leave the legacy of a region rich in woods and trees for the benefit and enjoyment of generations to come."

Liz Ballard on behalf of the Wildlife Trusts in the North of England, said:

"We welcome this report from the IPPR and support the recommendations it contains. We hope this can be a catalyst to stimulate more joined up working between the NP11 and the Natural Environment Sector as we come out of lockdown. Covid19 has really shown how important our connection with nature is to our health & wellbeing. We look forward to working closely with colleagues across the North to deliver a green recovery plan that benefits people, the environment and the economy."

Liz Newton, Natural England’s Operations Director (north), said:

“The importance of natural heritage in creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns and counties, and the positive impact it can have on local economies is being recognised, and Nature North is dedicated to working together to amplify this message.

“Building partnerships for nature’s recovery is very much the theme of Natural England 2020-21 Action Plan. Nature North group brings together wide-ranging expertise and will work over the summer to develop some priority proposals for nature recovery in the region.”

Joanna Royle, Assistant Regional Director for The National Trust in the North said:

“We welcome this report from the IPPR. We need a plan that invests in green growth and responds to what the lockdown has clearly shown: that people want and need access to nature-rich green space. It’s this equal access to nature and fresh air that the founders of the National Trust set out to achieve 125 years ago. It remains worth fighting for, today and always.”

Tony Gates, Chief Executive, of Northumberland National Park said: National Parks were created after the second world war as a key part of the nations’ recovery. Now as much as every National Parks have a key part to play in the health and long term well-being of the nation. The rich natural assets of the north of England shape it as a place and will be in the vanguard of the health and economic recovery of the region. People are recognising the importance of nature and pride in the places they live – let’s make sure we ‘recover together’ and this report can help us take the right steps to do just that.