In May 2013 Defra released a framework for a whole landscape scale management approach for England and Wales. Entitled the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA), the framework introduced the concept of catchment partnerships for policy makers and stakeholders designed to promote collaborative working between tiers of governance to manage the water environment at a catchment scale.
The CaBA framework included a key principle stating that ‘the proposed catchment partnerships must consider the water environment in terms of all the ecosystems services which exist within a healthy catchment and have an aim to better integrate planning and activities which will deliver multiple benefits’ (Defra 2013).
Four clear objectives were outlined:
- Deliver a better quality water environment
- Encourage collaborative working
- Recognise the role of both existing and new partnerships in collaborative catchment
- Encourage long term self-sustaining funding agreements
Catchment partnerships have been shown to be a catalyst for partnered investment which have, through a process of river restoration, improved water quality, enhanced habitat and biodiversity, reduced flood risk, improved landscape resilience to a changing climate and developed community engagement with local rivers (The Rivers Trust and Defra 2014). This has been achieved through the use of a framework designed to support even the newest catchment partnerships in delivering well designed projects at a catchment scale.
In 2011 a number of pilot catchment initiatives were undertaken by Defra to promote local understanding and engagement with the water environment, and provide sustainable outcomes at a catchment scale to meet the aims of the WFD. The Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF) was released by Defra in 2012 which only third sector led partnerships could bid for. While the CRF had similar aims to the River Improvement Fund a distinct difference was the inclusion of a wider and more local stakeholder network making decisions about the water environment. Since the Catchment Restoration Fund was released several more rounds of funding have enabled catchment partnerships and river and wildlife trusts to work together to improve the water environment, now policy is starting to change with the introduction of natural flood management and upstream thinking.