A visioning meeting held earlier this spring brought over 20 members of the East Suffolk Catchment Partnership together to hear updates on the current projects being delivered in East Suffolk and to brainstorm future project ideas.
Hosted by the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust (ESRT) at the RSBP’s Minsmere reserve, the day yielded some very positive insights from its members around how we envision the partnership developing, and where to focus our efforts for the best outcomes.
Attendees from a range of statutory and charitable organisations contributed to the discussions, including staff from the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Board, County Council, AONB and Natural England, alongside those representing farmers and water companies. Charities including the RSPB, FWAG and ESRT gave presentations on their recent work, including on the Suffolk Wader Strategy (RSPB) and on new approaches to soil and water management on farms (FWAG). The ESRT – which runs the secretariat for the partnership – gave an overview of how far we’ve come in the last few years, before seeking ideas for new projects to deliver in 2020.
What came out of the meeting was significant support for more joined-up work on managing our river catchments to preserve and enhance ecosystem services and deliver good environmental outcomes. Through interactive sessions delegates generated and voted on ideas, discussing ideas for collaboration, and thinking about how the ESCP can most effectively facilitate this.
The most popular project idea was to deliver some pilot projects which could be trialled for the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which will form the basis of the new farm subsidies post-Brexit. Slowing the flow of rivers, and undertaking riparian tree planting along more of East Suffolk’s riverbanks were interventions seen as key to enhancing river habitats and mitigating water pollution. Abstraction reform and community engagement projects also featured, and with such a landmark opportunity to shift environmental policy in the next few years, attendees’ conversations were also buzzing with ideas for campaigns and ways to influence policy-making.
The scale of the challenge to deliver consistent environmental outcomes across the entire catchment area was acknowledged, not only in the context of Defra’s 25 year plan aspirations, but also in terms of the legal requirements the Water Framework Directive demands. However there was no shortage of ambition in the room to do this, and with over 70 projects ideas and comments generated by the group, there was no shortage of passion and enthusiasm in the room either!
The meeting outputs have been collated and are now being considered by the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust trustees before funding can be sought to take some of these forward. If you want to find out more about the ESCP and what it does, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.