A new rewilding centre intended to showcase and share the best biodiversity and sustainability practices in land management has been launched in Essex.

The 296-acre Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery, near Braintree, will be dedicated to helping landowners unlock the potential of their underutilised land with the potential to increase environmental and societal value for generations to come.

The site was purchased for £2 million by landscaping and maintenance contractor Ground Control, which will lead in its transformation into a research and training facility, providing guidance and hands-on learning opportunities in woodland creation, meadow and hedgerow restoration and biodiverse habitat creation.

Clients and landowners will also have the opportunity to learn from evidence-based trials in sequestering carbon while increasing biodiversity and sustainability practices relevant to their landbank.

To mark the centre’s launch, sustainability leaders from organisations such as JLL, Guinness, Fujitsu, Aviva and Network Rail attended the Green Gains Live summit to discuss ways to better utilise land to limit global warming and support environmental recovery.

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“The recent release of the IPCC report highlighted the urgent need to switch to a low-carbon footing,” said Ground Control director Kim Morrish. “A key part of this process is identifying and increasing the environmental value of land through habitat creation and improvement to help reverse the decline in the UK’s natural environment.”

“The Wildfell Centre presents us with an exciting opportunity to highlight the benefits of rewilding degraded land. Showcasing the best practices for habitat creation, biodiversity net gain and carbon sequestration will allow public and private landowners to reimagine their landbanks and explore what they can do to maximise green gains and create a stainable legacy for the next generation.

“Together with our £5 million Evergreen Fund, the Wildfell Centre supports our commitment as business as a force for social and environmental sustainability – within our industry and beyond.”

Land evaluation, project design and stakeholder engagement at the site has already begun with initial woodland, habitat creation and restoration projects commencing in 2022.  The centre will operate with science-based, verifiable measures for carbon sequestration, habitat creation and environmental management.

“Landowners don’t have a roadmap showing them how to effectively use their land in key areas such as reaching net zero emission and boosting biodiversity,” said Chris Bawtree, woodland creation lead at Ground Control. “We want to help them identify and leverage under-utilised land to reverse the decline in our natural environment.”

“An important part of this process is recording and measuring changes in green gain. To help standardise the process, we’ve begun working on creating a single, independently verifiable biodiversity metric and certification program for land under management.”

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