Today is World Wetlands Day (2 February), and Cheshire West and Chester Council is highlighting the work that is taking place across the borough to create important wetlands that will support a range of native wildlife.
Wetlands are critically important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, freshwater availability and climate mitigation and adaptation. World Wetlands Day highlights the importance of these bodies of water and, how worldwide, wetlands are being lost three times faster than forests with nearly 90 per cent of all wetland habitats, including ponds, disappearing in the last 300 years.
As part of the Council’s work to address the nature crisis, the Council is acting as the habitat delivery body for Natural England’s great crested newt strategic licensing scheme, known as District Level Licensing (DLL).
Under DLL, developers pay a conservation payment, which is then used to create or restore new ponds in strategic areas within the borough. The ponds are secured, monitored, and managed for 25 years – all funded by the developers.
Since the scheme started in 2018, the Council has created over 108 ponds, including 50 in the last 12 months. The Council’s Total Environment Team continue to monitor these, ensuring they remain healthy and thriving habitats for local wildlife.
Councillor Matt Bryan, Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Climate Emergency, said, “Ponds play an important role in our borough providing ecosystems that supports amphibians, such as great crested newts, and also birds, mammals, and invertebrates.
“Our Total Environment Team are aiming to restore an average of 50 ponds a year, creating around 9,000m2 of wetland habitat – an area greater than a football pitch.
“These wetlands will help cycle nutrients in our waterways, removing environmental pollutants, whilst also providing places for our communities to connect with nature, something that we know provides benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.”
The Council is asking landowners and farmers in the borough to come forward, if they are interested in creating and restoring ponds on their land. A grant is available to successful applicants to cover the full costs of each pond creation or restoration on their land.
Applications must come from within the Natural England target areas and conform to design specifications for size, depth, and profile. More than one-third of land in the borough falls within the target area. The Council’s Total Environment team can provide support and advice throughout the application process.
To find out more about the scheme, and to see if you are eligible, please contact the biodiversity team by emailing: Biodiversity@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk
The Council is currently working with the Land Trust, Friends of the Countess of Chester Country Park, Environment Agency and other partners to explore potential opportunities for a large wetland restoration project, west of Chester. The key aims of the project would be to increase biodiversity and improve water quality whilst reconnecting a watercourse with its floodplain.
The wetland habitat also has potential to act as a carbon sink, which will prevent the release of harmful greenhouse gases. Other potential benefits from the project would be to bring local conservation and environmental groups together and providing educational resources for the local community.
This project is in the early stages and further information will be shared on the Council’s Climate Emergency Inspire webpage once funding for delivery and management has been secured.