Triodos Bank UK is supporting Heal Rewilding, which plans to restore lost habitats with the creation of natural reserves across England.
Triodos Bank UK has provided a £3.75m loan to finance the creation of a new nature reserve in Somerset, south-west England by charity Heal Rewilding, which aims to create similar reserves for the rewilding of nature in all English counties.
The loan is the first by the bank to a rewilding project. The institution, which is part of Dutch-based Triodos banking group, also says it believes this to be the first commercial loan of its kind in the UK.
The project is also backed by a loan from Direct Line Group, as well as a land fund that Heal launched in early 2020. Heal says it plans to acquire land using affordable lending, which will then be paid down via corporate donations, natural capital investment and public land sponsorship. A 3m x 3m patch of land can be sponsored by individuals through its “Heal 3×3” scheme.
Bevis Watts, chief executive of Triodos Bank UK, said the bank hoped to support similar initiatives across the UK that address climate change effects and adaptation, and promote biodiversity.
“This is going to be critical to meeting net-zero goals and reversing nature’s decline, both of which are central to our mission to create positive impact with the money entrusted to us by Triodos customers,” he said.
If Heal Somerset is successful, the organisation plans to establish similar nature recovery sites in all of England’s 48 counties by 2050, potentially covering an area of 25,000 acres in total. It plans to acquire its second landholding, in northern England, within two years.
Rewiliding is a high-profile environmental topic in the UK, where pressure from urban expansion and modern agriculture has depleted the amount of land in a natural or semi-natural state, resulting in loss of habitats and species diversity. Heal says that what rewilding there is mostly occurs in upland areas, so its focus will be on lowland areas to ensure better distribution of rewilded areas, as well as putting them in easier reach of people living in urban areas.
To rewild its land, Heal will use rare breed cattle, pigs and ponies to help re-establish natural processes. Natural regeneration of trees, improved soil health and other plant growth will help improve the area’s ability to capture carbon and thus tackle climate change. A variety of habitats will be created to improve diversity of plant and animal species.
Triodos has also been working in the UK on developing pilot investable business models connected to nature restoration, such as a natural flood management project to invest £1.5m to reduce flood risk to communities in northwest England.