Press release

LIFE support for precious Yorkshire peatlands

The future of England's largest lowland peat bogs is looking brighter thanks to new funding from the European Union LIFE+ programme.

Natural England has confirmed that the LIFE+ programme - the EU’s funding programme for the environment and climate action - has awarded a grant of £2.2 million to support additional conservation management work on the precious lowland raised bog habitat of the Humberhead Peatlands, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire.

The funding will extend the area of peatbog habitat under active restoration and will help provide a long-term future for the rare plants, birds and insects that have evolved to live on the unique wetland habitat.

Natural England is already carrying out restoration work on its Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve (NNR) which is part of two internationally important sites - Thorne Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Hatfield Moors SAC – which together make up the UK’s largest lowland raised bog complex.

The LIFE+ grant will help ensure that the peat across the 28 square kilometres of the area is wet enough so that wildlife - including birds such as nightjar and hobby and specialist plants including cotton grasses, bog mosses, bog rosemary and wild cranberries - can thrive. The project will also enable research and monitoring to be undertaken into the bog’s unique bird and insect populations which will help similar restoration projects elsewhere.

Welcoming the EU LIFE+ funding, Julian Small, NNR manager, said: “Restored peatlands are not only wonderful places for wildlife, they also store water, helping to reduce flooding, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide tranquil places for people to visit. We are very grateful to the EU LIFE+ fund and to Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board (DEIDB) for their financial support, which will help to safeguard the Humberhead Peatlands for future generations of wildlife and for people to enjoy.”

The LIFE+ Project enhances the Water Level Management Plan already being undertaken by the DE IDB work on Thorne Moors. The Board will be working with Natural England to carefully manage the water levels on the Moors so that the special bog wildlife can thrive once again. The LIFE+ funding provided by the European Union matches funding already secured by DEIDB, along with a contribution from Natural England.

Ken Knight, Chairman of the DEIBD, said: “This major funding from the EU builds on the Water Level Management Plan being undertaken by the board, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, Natural England and JBA Consulting. It’s great news for the moors and the Doncaster area which has these remarkable, internationally significant, and beautiful sites on its doorstep.”

Large areas of Thorne and Hatfield Moors were bought for the nation in 2003 and are recovering from more than 100 years of industrial peat extraction. Whilst much initial work was completed and is proving successful, the bog is in need of further long-term restoration due to the impact of commercial peat extraction which occurred from the 1870s until 2004 leaving only a shallow depth of peat over much of the site.

The three year project will be completed by June 2017 and will leave a lasting legacy for Britain’s largest lowland bogs. Water levels for bog restoration will be carefully managed using dams, weirs, bunds and by reducing the amount of water being sucked out of the peat by scrub vegetation.

Jeff Lunn, Natural England’s Area Manager added: “Lowland raised peat bogs are one of the most threatened habitats in Europe, and South Yorkshire can boast of some of the most important sites in the UK. This project is an excellent example of how Natural England works innovatively with partners to make the best use of limited resources for the benefit of the natural environment.

“Restoration of raised bog sites is an expensive, long-term activity and this LIFE+ funding and the support of the Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board is a significant and welcome investment in combating climate change, looking after one of the country’s most valuable and rare wildlife habitats, and preventing flooding.”

A LIFE+ project manager will lead a dedicated team to ensure that the work is delivered, supported by a steering group of partners. Eleven jobs will be created with the recruitment of people to carry out work on the ground during the lifetime of the project.

Background information

The LIFE programme

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding programme for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value.

LIFE began in 1992 and to date there have been four complete phases of the programme (LIFE I: 1992-1995, LIFE II: 1996-1999, LIFE III: 2000-2006 and LIFE+: 2007-2013). During this period, LIFE has co-financed some 3954 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment.

The European Commission manages the LIFE programme.

Natural England

Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

England’s 224 NNRs form part of a UK-wide network of nature reserves covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Natural England manages 143 of these NNRs to ensure that our finest wildlife and geological sites are protected, conserved and enhanced for present and future generations. From Lindisfarne in Northumberland to The Lizard in Cornwall, and from the Suffolk Coast in East Anglia to The Stiperstones in Shropshire – NNRs are the very best places to experience the natural world at first hand.

Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board

The Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board was formed in April 2012. The Board’s purpose is to protect people and their property against river and surface water flooding through water level management within low lying areas predominately from the east of Doncaster towards the River Idle and River Torne which discharge into the River Trent. As part of its remit, the Board also works with Local Authorities and the Environment Agency and other public bodies, continuing to manage water levels for the overall benefit of people, property, commerce, industry, agriculture and the aquatic environment within the defined Drainage District.

The Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum

Formed in 1989 Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum acts as an umbrella for a wide range of like-minded organisations. Its extensive network is drawn from voluntary organisations and natural history societies, and it has observers from statutory agencies and local authorities. The Forum has on occasions taken on a campaigning role, but this aspect of its work has always been underpinned by robust science, and research, survey and monitoring remain key activities. The Forum is administered by an Executive Committee and it publishes its findings extensively.

Published 5 August 2014