Millions of pounds of environmental funding to West Norfolk ‘at risk’ from Brexit, campaigners warn

Managers of the Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve say their appeal to buy adjacent lands will help to secure the area's future after Brexit, if it is successful
Managers of the Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve say their appeal to buy adjacent lands will help to secure the area's future after Brexit, if it is successful
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West Norfolk could lose out on tens of millions of pounds in environmental funding as a result of Brexit, environmental campaigners have warned.

The claim has been made by Friends of the Earth, who say politicians must support increased financial support for farmers to undertake eco-friendly works after the general election.

At the moment, farmers are paid for the work they do to help protect the environment through a series of environmental stewardship funding agreements, through the European Union’s common agricultural policy.

But Friends of the Earth fear that, unless a replacement scheme is implemented once that funding ends in 2020, vital habitats in this area and elsewhere will be put at risk.

They claim Norfolk as a whole is currently set to lose nearly £213 million of funding, with £26.3 million of that in the North West Norfolk constituency alone.

The South West Norfolk constituency, which includes Downham and Swaffham, would be the biggest loser, being denied more than £46 million of funding.

The group says it based its figures on assessments of current environmental stewardship programmes published by Natural England.

Clare Oxborrow, food and farming campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “This funding is vital for nature and for local farmers. It helps to reduce flooding, create wildlife habitats, plant trees and restore hedgerows - but all of this could be lost after the general election.

“We’re asking all parliamentary candidates to commit to keeping and increasing this critical funding post-Brexit.”

The figures come just days after managers of the Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve, near Fakenham, launched an appeal to raise £850,000 towards the £1.7 million cost of buying adjacent lands to the site.

The Hawk and Owl Trust, which runs the reserve, will submit a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund later this year for the other half of the money they need.

And they say that being able to purchase the lands will help to secure the reserve’s future, both against Brexit and the lands falling into private hands.

In its general election manifesto, published last week, the Conservatives pledged to draw up a 25 year plan to improve the environment after Brexit.

Meanwhile, Labour’s manifesto said the party would set up a science innovation fund to work with both farmers and fishermen if elected, and plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and improved flood management.

The Liberal Democrats say they want to reform agricultural subsidies to support both food production and environmental protection.

The Green Party says it would introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to safeguard “everybody’s right to a safe environment as currently guaranteed through our membership of the EU” if it got into government.

The UK Independence Party is due to publish its manifesto this week.