Projects to restore habitats across vast areas of North Yorkshire are among 34 schemes granted funding as part of a plan for nature set out by Rishi Sunak this week.

The environmental package designed to boost access to nature came ahead of the Cop28 climate summit which started in Dubai on Thursday. Measures include the launch of a process to create a national park, a competition for a new national forest, and two additional community forests.

Among the 34 new landscape recovery projects across England is Linking Levisham, a scheme put forward by the North York Moors National Park Authority, which will span some 2,588 hectares to allow natural processes and precious habitats to be restored and connected across boundaries.

The funding will support a two-year development phase for Linking Levisham, which would deliver land management changes across the Levisham estate that benefit biodiversity, and climate change.

Darlington and Stockton Times: “Feeding time” at Levisham Moor looking towards the Hole of Horcum by Jenny Stead

Tom Hind, chief executive of the National Park Authority, said: “We’re delighted that Linking Levisham has been confirmed as one of the 34 schemes to receive funding as part of this package of nature announcements from Government.

“This flagship landscape recovery project will unite partners – including Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Forestry England and North Yorkshire Moors Railway – to restore natural habitats, increase ecosystem resilience and protect biodiversity. It will also create a blueprint for balancing conservation, agriculture and cultural interests in a heavily protected yet working upland environment."

The scheme also involves two common graziers and two grazing tenants, and will combine all partners’ management plans into one, focused 2,588-hectare initiative.

It will see species and landscape scale audits, research and assessments and nature recovery conservation works, as well as exploration into possible nature credits.

In the Yorkshire Dales, two projects received funding - Ure Dale and Heart of the Dales.

The Ure Dale scheme aims to connect habitats across more than 6,700 hectares of one the most remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales, working towards a net-zero, climate change-resilient landscape.

It will collaborate with farmers and land managers to restore peatlands, create and enhance woodlands, install natural flood management features, explore sustainable farming options, increase wildlife corridors for isolated species and devise a payment mechanism for maintaining habitats in good ecological condition. 

The Heart of the Dales project is focused on climate resilience, carbon sequestration, thriving nature and clean water through farms, communities, nature, and people who visit. It aims to protect 34km of the Upper Wharfe, restore and protect 2,964 ha of peatland and about 3,000 ha of species-rich grasslands, and put trees and woodlands back into the landscape over about 500ha.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Footage from Mark Barrow’s filming underneath and above the River Wharfe

The scheme also aims to restore areas of self-willed land over about 250ha, and create habitats for "lost" species across 9,622 ha of protected upland landscape. 

As part of the wider announcement, conservation advisory body Natural England will consider locations for the new national park, with the Government making the final decision next year.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said he wants it close to an urban area to maximise public access.

The environmental push will also allocate £2.5m to connect children with nature, and there will be £15m to support national parks and national landscapes.

Mr Hind said: “National parks are unequivocally one of the most important assets this country has when it comes to tackling climate change head-on and it is encouraging to see that this is recognised by Government.

"We look forward to seeing more details on how the additional £15m funding will be distributed, which should go some way to mitigating the more than 40 per cent decline in core grant funding that national parks have seen since 2010.

“We hope the competition for a new national park excites communities in those areas and gives more people, particularly children and young adults, the opportunity to access nature and wild spaces in a way they haven’t been able to previously.

“National parks have faced a challenging few years since the Landscapes Review was published in 2019, but our aims and purposes are more relevant than ever before. We are primed and ready to deliver great things for nature, people and climate, but we do need the resources to do it.”