CIWEM calls on Government to strengthen the power of catchment partnerships

The Institution recommends the involvement of catchment partnerships in a newly-conceived agricultural subsidy system, following Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s pledge to end subsidies based on farm size.

CIWEM has published its vision for the future management of land and water under the government’s 25-year environment plan, saying a strengthened catchment based approach must be at its heart.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is calling on the government to enhance the authority and resources of catchment partnerships in more than 100 river catchments across England, to deliver a wider range of benefits. These partnerships exist under the ‘catchment based approach’ which brings together interested local bodies and individuals, including farmers and landowners, to identify the most effective ways to deliver environmental improvement, and flood and climate resilience.

Introduced as a voluntary programme in 2011, the approach has seemingly delivered significant environmental improvements in many catchments. Such best practice should now be expanded upon, with increased government support to enable partnerships to advise on a growing range of issues.

CIWEM’s recommendations urge the government to actively involve enhanced catchment partnerships in a newly conceived agricultural subsidy system. The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has pledged an end to subsidies based primarily on farm size, instead promoting the principle of tying farm income to the delivery of social benefits, such as environmental improvements or flood storage.

Understanding where the greatest opportunities to deliver such benefits lie relies on a strong local understanding of conditions on the ground, which catchment partnerships can provide. Over the 25 year lifespan of the plan, partnerships should increasingly involve a wide range of partners. This will ensure that policies relating to issues as broad as housing development, agriculture and flood risk management for example, work together to deliver the best outcomes for the needs of communities and businesses living and working in any given catchment.

The newly announced government plans to consult on a new, independent body for environmental standards, to replace scrutiny and enforcement roles currently provided by the EU post-Brexit will also be key to delivering the vision. CIWEM considers that this body should also monitor progress against the 25 year plan, much as the current Committee on Climate Change monitors the Country’s progress in meeting its climate change targets.

CIWEM’s Chief Executive Terry Fuller said: “The catchment based approach has developed over the last six years to show how a wide range of stakeholders can collectively identify very cost-effective solutions to a range of increasingly critical challenges, such as biodiversity loss, water quality, soil fertility and flood resilience. The best examples of this represent a compelling model for how integrated solutions to complex problems can be delivered. But to take it to the next level, the approach needs greater government weight and support behind it. It must be a cornerstone of the delivery of the government’s ambition on the environment and this hugely anticipated 25 year plan.”

You can find the full report and recommendations, titled A vision for land and water management in the Government’s 25 year environment plan here.