How do we mobilise community action for nature restoration?

Local communities play a key role in nature restoration efforts. Manchester experts are using their expertise to help build and maintain strong community and stakeholder engagement in restoring post-industrial landscapes. It’s been shown that when communities learn more about their local landscapes and wildlife, they’re more likely to contribute to transformation projects that tackle climate change.

Dr Joanne Tippett, a renowned community engagement expert and Lecturer in Spatial Planning at Manchester, is working with the Carbon Landscape Partnership to restore more than 500 hectares of former industrial landscapes back to nature over a five year project.

The £3.2 million project is focused on restoring wildlife-rich habitats and providing natural solutions to climate change, helping to manage flood risk, cool urban areas and improve air quality, while capturing and storing carbon dioxide.

Community connections

Dr Tippett's invention, Ketso, is a hands-on toolkit for stakeholder engagement and learning. It has been used to connect with communities, ensuring a diverse range of perspectives contributed to the initial bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for project funding, by the Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership.

The toolkit has since been embedded throughout the community engagement strand of The Carbon Landscape Partnership as it works with hundreds of community members and partners across sectors as varied as health, the arts, environment and education. This creative engagement has enabled a rich dialogue about connecting people to their landscape and its heritage while creating a step-change for nature across the region. To date, more than 6,500 community volunteers have helped to restore natural habitats in a nature recovery network spanning 10,000 hectares between the cities of Manchester and Liverpool.

Bringing nature back

Understanding how communities would use and interact with spaces intended for nature restoration, and what they value in their local area, was crucial in securing funding and planning project strategies. Stakeholders were encouraged to feel part of the process and to develop a feeling of ownership — critical for long-term success.

Natural sites offer a wealth of wellbeing and educational benefits to local communities. The project is providing opportunities for training, volunteering and educational activities — increasing people's understanding of their natural environment's heritage and their role in bringing nature back to urban areas.

The project's community engagement work has helped build a case for the former coalfields of Wigan and Leigh to be declared a National Nature Reserve, with ambitious plans for further nature restoration and community engagement across Greater Manchester and neighbouring local authorities.