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Innovative project to help protect historic Peak District spa town at risk from flooding

Green grass and moss, with purple flowers, surrounding a pond filled with water, with a blue sky in the background.
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Partners across the Peak District have joined forces to kickstart critical upland restoration work near Buxton.

Nestlé Waters UK, the Environment Agency, Severn Trent and the Harris & Sheldon Group have come together with Moors for the Future Partnership to fund the work on Combs Moss in the moors of the Peak District.

Innovative restoration works include planting 187 hectares with sphagnum moss and 34 hectares with vascular plug plants and gully blocking using several materials and methodologies such as peat dams, stone dams, coir logs, and large leaky timber. The restoration measures are designed to deliver multiple benefits on and off-site, including creating conditions where water may be held on the Combs Moss Moorland for longer, slowing the flow of water from the moor and mitigating the risk of flooding in the Derbyshire town of Buxton. In addition, it will also help to increase biodiversity, increase resilience to wildfire and reduce net carbon emissions. 

Nestlé Waters UK is supporting the project as part of its efforts to lead the regeneration of local water cycles through nature-based solutions that provide benefits to the watershed and community. Additional funding provided by Severn Trent to plant sphagnum moss and other native plant species on the Combs Moss site continues a successful relationship between the water company and Moors for the Future Partnership, that links to Severn Trent’s aim to improve biodiversity across 5,000 hectares of the Severn Trent catchment area by 2027. 

By attracting funding for nature-based solutions, Moors for the Future Partnership will be able to complete works to rewet the moorland and slow the flow of water from the uplands into rivers, contributing to natural flood management for nearby communities like Buxton, where flooding has previously occurred along the convergence of two brooks which are of ongoing concern. Like all blanket bog moorland in the Peak District, it has been impacted by its close proximity to heavy industry and the pollution that was caused by the Industrial Revolution. 

Chris Dean, Partnership Manager for Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “The Combs Moss restoration project represents a significant step for Moors for the Future Partnership. We now know that natural capital funding opportunities can successfully fund crucial moorland restoration work now and into the future. 

“Exploring these new funding opportunities allows us to continue restoration work at the kind of landscape scale that is needed and at the pace that is required. 

“Development funding from the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, Defra and the Environment Agency enabled us to explore this new flexible funding model that means we may be able to continue our moorland restoration work for decades to come. 

“With Environment Agency funding, we were able to do a mapping exercise to identify where restoration work may help communities at risk of flooding. We are happy to announce the commencement of work on the moors above Buxton, which represents a great success for the work of the team and the partners.” 

Hayley Lloyd House, Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Nestlé Waters UK said: “Nestlé Waters are excited to be involved in the Combs Moss restoration project, it's an important opportunity to invest in regenerating the local ecosystem around Buxton. The project will positively influence the water balance in the landscape and hills to the north west of Buxton, helping mitigate future risk of flooding and bring real benefits for the communities that live and work in the lowerlying areas around the town centre. 

“Climate change is making a huge impact across the globe, resulting in increasing water challenges that include drought and flooding. As water stewards and part of the Buxton community, we must continue to collaborate to find solutions that restore and build resilience in our natural environment. 

“Our water regeneration projects go beyond the factory gates to help tackle shared local water challenges. This project is a great example of being a part of a collaborative ecosystem service funding initiative, that will benefit nature alongside local businesses and communities for decades to come, something we have long been working towards for Buxton.”

The project aligns with the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan which states that, while the public sector will remain a source of funding for the natural environment, it is critical that this sits alongside private sector investment. 

The Environment Agency aims to have 336,000 properties across the whole of England better protected from flooding by 2027 by committing funding across a series of innovative projects and nature-based solutions. 

Image credit: Moors for the Future Partnership.