Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), the Distribution Network Operator for the north of Scotland and central southern England, has now become a founding partner and the first utility company to support the Projects for Nature platform, which connects the company with nature recovery projects in its licence areas.

SSEN has announced the two projects that will benefit from almost £250,000 of funding. These are the regeneration of 24 hectares of woodland within the Northern Fields at Heal in Somerset, which is the Heal Rewilding charity’s first site, and the restoration of 11 hectares of fen bordering a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Oxfordshire, which is under the care of Freshwater Habitats Trust.

The site at Heal in Somerset (photographed above with a team of volunteers) only began its recovery from its ecologically-depleted state at the beginning of last year. The new funding will do much to help wildlife to return in abundance to this peaceful, restorative place.

Alkaline fens like the one that will now be restored in Oxfordshire support a wide array of wetland species – some of which are very rare and not found anywhere else. They are extremely important for the UK’s biodiversity, but are vulnerable to encroachment from trees and shrubs, and drying from land conversion. This funding will help rewet this vulnerable area.

Freshwater Habitats workers planting in an alkaline fen in Oxfordshire. Photograph courtesy of Dr Tony Gillie
^ Freshwater Habitats workers planting in an alkaline fen in Oxfordshire. Photograph courtesy of Dr Tony Gillie

SSEN is leading the way in its support for Projects for Nature. The platform brings together the expertise of businesses, environmental NGOs, and the UK Government along with its expert environmental bodies. It showcases nature projects that have been assessed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England, and the Environment Agency, and aims to make it simpler for businesses to get involved in nature recovery.

Flowering plants in an alkaline fen in Oxfordshire. Photograph courtesy of Dr Tony Gillie
^ Flowering plants in an alkaline fen in Oxfordshire. Photograph courtesy of Dr Tony Gillie

2023’s State of Nature report concludes the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. 1 in 7 of the UK’s native species are facing extinction, while two-fifths are seeing their populations fall. Halting and reversing the decline in nature requires all sectors to work together. SSEN’s support for Projects for Nature is contributing much-needed funding for nature projects, helping nature to recover alongside providing additional benefits for people and the climate. 

SSEN Distribution’s Managing Director Chris Burchell says:
“I’m proud SSEN Distribution is the first utility company to support Projects for Nature. SSEN is fortunate to work in many of the UK’s most precious natural environments. This is a privilege – and it’s also a big responsibility.

“We already have significant measures in place to protect and enhance the natural environment around us, and our early support of Projects for Nature means we’re giving further meaningful support to natural habitats in the communities we serve.

SSEN’s involvement in Projects for Nature is in addition to its actions to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate impacts arising from operations and supply chains.

Justin Francis, The Chairperson of Projects for Nature, says:
“We’re thrilled to welcome SSEN as a founding business partner of Projects for Nature. SSEN’s 1.5 degree science-based target underpins its environment action plan, and we greatly appreciate how they’re extending their environment commitment to support two vital nature restoration projects.

“Restoring nature supports biodiversity, provides benefits to local communities, helps sequester carbon, and enhances climate adaptation. We welcome SSEN’s leadership and support for these exciting projects.” 
Jan Stannard, Heal Rewilding’s Chair of Trustees, says:
“We’re delighted to receive this generous and transformative support from SSEN through Projects for Nature. Our Heal Somerset site is one year into its journey of recovery towards a rich mosaic of woodland, scrub, grassland, bare earth, and wetlands, where wildlife can find sanctuary and thrive.

“This vital funding will enable us to accelerate the recovery of our Northern Fields, enabling us to ring-fence the land so that we can manage the impact of deer on the regenerating vegetation and bring in our ‘ecosystem engineers’ – pigs, cattle, and ponies – over the next few years.”
Professor Jeremy Biggs, CEO of Freshwater Habitats Trust, says:
“We’re so pleased to have received this generous Projects for Nature funding from SSEN, and we’re very excited to start restoring this fen. Alkaline fens are extraordinary habitats, which support many rare freshwater plants and animals, but are sadly now vanishingly scarce.

“This funding will enable us to build on Freshwater Habitats Trust’s ongoing commitment to restoring these declining habitats. It is also a significant boost for the Freshwater Network – our approach to creating a national network of wilder, wetter, cleaner, more connected habitats to reverse the decline in freshwater biodiversity.”

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