On firm ground: Yorkshire Water's green vision for sustainable land management

Through the Beyond Nature programme the water company is working with its farm tenants to improve not only the quality of its water, but its land too.

Yorkshire Water has developed a ‘Beyond Nature’ vision for the management of its non-operational estate. Over the past two years it has worked with six of its tenants, on farms covering 4,700 ha to develop management plans that set out how this vision will be implemented. 

The vision for Beyond Nature is to demonstrate to others how to operate truly sustainable land management. Alongside its primary focus on water quality, the company recognises the potential for its land to generate significant value, including for: carbon storage, a home for nature, recreation, natural flood management, and farming. 

Beneath the vision, nine key values have been identified to guide sustainable land management  and provide the overarching framework for each farm management plan:

  • Water quality: enhancement and safeguarding of water quality and quantity 
  • Biodiversity: conservation and enhancement of the environment and biodiversity 
  • Carbon: optimisation of carbon storage and sequestration
  • Farming enterprise: an ecological approach that supports sustainable agriculture and farm enterprises
  • Sporting enterprise: management of sporting interests, which are integrated with farming and environmental management
  • Climate change: mitigating climate change effects through appropriate land management practices
  • Flood attenuation: land management practices that support flow attenuation and natural flood management 
  • Social: land management that generates significant value to society, communities, customers and stakeholders
  • Recreation: embracing recreational opportunities where impacts do not adversely impact the environment and other land users

Partnership working arrangements are supporting delivery, including Natural England Stewardship agreements, Heritage Lottery Fund grants and joint initiatives with conservation organisations, as well as Yorkshire Water’s own support. 

The tenant on Yorkshire Water's first, flagship Beyond Nature farm, Humberstone Bank, has implemented initiatives to realise the Beyond Nature vision. This includes the restoration of traditional hay meadows, the construction of a wildlife and sediment pond, the introduction of conservation grazing with a herd of native cattle, and woodland creation. These initiatives aim to enhancing biodiversity, as well as improving water quality and increasing carbon storage capacity. 

Yorkshire Water has supported the development of the Humberstone Upland Hub, a converted traditional farm building with the facilities to host conferences, meetings and educational visits. The Hub has been used by organisations that, in the main, have a sustainable land management and conservation focus. Plans are in place to significantly increase the number of educational visits hosted at the Hub.   

The water company has made a commitment in its 2020-25 business plan to roll out Beyond Nature across its estate. It is working on producing further information and guidance for potential tenancies, building partnerships to support implementation and promoting achievements.