A new project is set to help wildlife thrive, cut carbon, boost flood resilience, and reduce wildfire risk in Kirklees and Calderdale.

Kirklees Council will be working in partnership with Calderdale Council, after securing grant funding to prepare for a large-scale project which crosses the borders of both boroughs.

The ‘Calder and Colne Landscape Links’ (CCaLL) project aims to restore moorlands, plant trees, and create wildlife-rich habitats that better connect valley towns with moorland tops along the rivers Calder and Colne.

The project will be funded by £750,000 from the Government’s department for environment, food & rural affairs (Defra) Landscape Recovery programme, and £100,000 from the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee

Kirklees Council will be working with partners including Calderdale Council, the Calder and Colne Rivers Trust, Environmental Projects in Kirklees (EPIKs), and Moors for the Future Partnership, with support from the Environment Agency.

Tackling climate action is a priority for Kirklees and Calderdale, and with both councils aiming to have net zero carbon emissions by 2038.

The CCaLL project will help achieve this target by:

  • Planting more trees, hedges, woodlands and wildflower meadows, restoring peat moorlands and creating wetlands. All of these act as ‘sponges’, soaking up carbon dioxide and keeping it out of the atmosphere, as well as providing homes for wildlife.
  • Working with local farmers to manage land in a way that allow both food production and nature to thrive, whilst lessening the impact of climate change as much as possible and reducing carbon emissions.
  • Improving soil management, which will result in healthier soils which are better for farming, food production, carbon capture, supporting the Natural Flood Management projects

The initial two-year project will focus on engaging with landowners and other stakeholders, designing actions, identifying and securing any necessary permits, costing up works and seeking contractors to do the work, whilst bringing in further funding for the work. Up to nine new jobs will be created, which will be advertised this spring.

Expected long-term benefits include:

  • Reduced flood risk for homes and businesses as rainwater is held on the restored moorlands, slowing its flow into the valley towns. This builds on the Natural Flood Management work already being carried out across the South Pennines.
  • Less risk of moorland fires, as a healthy moorland is less flammable.
  • More people being able to enjoy the benefits of a healthy, natural and cultural environment – for example, by making it easier for wheelchair and pushchair users, older people and those with dementia to access the countryside, canal towpaths and routes that are rich in cultural heritage, connecting villages, mills and monuments.

Rachel Spencer-Henshall, strategic director for corporate strategy, commissioning and public health, said, “Climate change will continue to throw challenges our way, and as the risk of flooding and wildfires rises along with global temperatures, we need to look to the future to safeguard our homes, local infrastructure, and of course, wildlife. We have to work with the natural world if we want it to work for us – that’s what this project will enable us to do along with our colleagues in Calderdale and the other project partners. This is a truly vital project which will help reduce the risk of flooding, boost biodiversity, improve local air quality and increase climate resilience in Kirklees and Calderdale.”

Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for climate action, active travel and housing, said, “Securing this funding is a massive achievement, and a testament to the brilliant work that Calderdale and Kirklees are doing to tackle the climate change and biodiversity crises. It comes as Calderdale continues to get its teeth into implementing its Climate Action Plan following publication in December 2023. The Calder and Colne Landscape Links project will contribute significantly to our net zero and biodiversity targets, and complements our work on the Flood Action Plan. We have talented and enthusiastic partners on board. Together, we will improve over 10,000 hectares of land across Calderdale and Kirklees, linking valley towns with moorland tops through new and improved habitats. The richer and more diverse our variety of plant and animal species, the more resilient we are to climate change and the more able we are to use natural methods to protect against disasters like flooding and moorland fires.”

Jeff Keenlyside, director of Environmental Projects in Kirklees (EPIKs), added, “EPIKs is delighted to be a partner in the CCaLL project. The valleys of the Calder and Colne rivers have fantastic potential for nature restoration and as connected natural green space for local communities to enjoy. This an ideal opportunity to realise that potential.”

Tony Price, business development manager at Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “We are excited by this opportunity to contribute to the project within the upland areas in Calderdale and Kirklees. The initial phase will produce plans that will ultimately increase resilience to climate change by returning the moors to a more natural, wetter condition. The plans will include measures to reduce risk of moorland fires, which are an increasing risk in the face of climate change. They will also provide a better habitat for wildlife, offer natural flood management benefits and improve drinking water quality.”