Thousands of green jobs created thanks to government nature fund, new report finds

The £80m Green Recovery Challenge Fund supported 150 projects, created more than 2,600 jobs and connected more than 400,000 people with nature

More than 2,500 jobs have been created in the environmental sector thanks to the government backed Green Recovery Challenge Fund, a new report published today (21 December) shows. 

The report - published by The Heritage Fund, which distributed the funding - shows the flagship £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund supported more than 150 environmental projects from North Northumberland to the tip of Cornwall, helping create 2,630 jobs in green sectors and connecting more than 400,000 people to nature. 

The fund supported a range of projects, including large-scale initiatives to protect landscapes and restore important habitats, such as wetlands and woodlands. The fund also enabled projects to help wildlife flourish by creating bat boxes, kingfisher tubes and bug hotels, as well as launch community schemes and events which aimed to bring people closer to nature. 

Flagship projects included:

  • Greater Manchester Environment Fund - In Greater Manchester, the GRCF enabled a wide range of nature conservation projects, from creating floating reed islands in Piccadilly Basin to restoring bogs. These projects have helped to ‘green up’ urban spaces and bring people closer to nature across Greater Manchester, including at the heart of Manchester city centre.
  • Generation Green - The Youth Hostel Association used GRCF funding to create Generation Green, a 16-month project which gave 115,000 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to connect with nature through a facilitated day, residential trip, or self-led experience. The success of the programme saw the Government announce a further £2.5 million last month to connect more children from under-represented groups. This will help deliver our commitment set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan for everyone to be within 15 minutes of a green space or water and to reduce barriers to access.
  • Magdalen Environmental Trust Farm - Magdalen Environmental Trust Farm, in Somerset, which promotes environmental education by running nature visits for schools and charities, used funding from the GRCF to support the ‘Axe Valley Oasis’ project and has subsequently gone on to be one of the leads in the Upper Axe Landscape Recovery Project.

The challenge fund was launched as a short-term, competitive grant fund in September 2020 to help the nation build back greener from the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs. 

The projects funded through GRCF helped to accelerate progress on the government’s green ambitions of protecting and enhancing nature, while better connecting people with the outdoors. 

This report comes after the completion of the second round of project funding this year.  

The report finds:   

  • The fund supported nature conservation and restoration across nearly 450,000 hectares of land, encompassing grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and ponds, and created indirect benefits for more than 1.5 million hectares of land, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Greater London. 
  • Overall, 1,895 sites have benefitted from GRCF environmental actions across the programme, including many Sites of Special Scientific Interest and local wildlife sites, with projects helping to deliver positive impacts on biodiversity, habitat quality and ecosystem health across England. 
  • The GRCF enabled 609 improvements or installations of infrastructure, including 192km of footpaths, 37km of fences, and 8km of boardwalks to improve access to nature.  

Nature Minister Rebecca Pow said:  

"The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is another superb example of the multiple benefits that investing in nature recovery can bring to people and nature. We have created improved habitats for precious species, upskilled the next generation in sustainable jobs and enabled many more people to experience the joys of spending time in the natural world.   

"The impact this fund has had is another example of our commitment to restore nature at a bigger scale. We will continue to protect and enhance our environment and improve access to our wild places, as set out in our ambitious Environmental Improvement Plan."

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:   

"Beyond the impressive impact on nature, we are pleased that the Green Recovery Challenge Fund will benefit nature recovery far into the future by strengthening relationships, supporting jobs and helping to build organisational resilience.   

"The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a great example of our partnership approach to support natural heritage projects that help the UK meet its nature recovery targets and mitigate the impact of climate change, allowing our heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and the future."

Giles Aspinall, Chief Executive of The Magdalen Farm Environmental Trust, said:

"Green Recovery Challenge Fund was transformational for us. It enabled us, for the first time, to properly resource our conservation ambitions, and to take the first big steps in transforming our land into a wonderful swathe of new habitats. We planted thousands of trees, sowed many millions of wildflower seeds, and put 100 acres into conservation management.

"We also helped as many people as we planted trees to connect with nature, some for the first time, staying for up to a week to fully immerse themselves in new experiences. And finally, the work we did through Green Recovery Challenge Fund got us ready for long term sustainable conservation work through Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship, which we would not have been ready for without the help of the Fund."

GRCF projects were delivered by a range of organisations, from national bodies such as the National Trust, Woodland Trust, Youth Hostel Association to more local organisations such as the Greater Manchester Environment Fund and the Magdalen Environmental Trust Farm. GRCF funding has laid the groundwork across England for nature recovery and community engagement with the environment, which will continue to have an important impact over the coming years.  

These projects have contributed to the goals within the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan to halt the decline in our biodiversity so we can achieve thriving plants and wildlife.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Heritage Lottery Fund (administered by the NHMF)
Rebecca Pow MP