Decision details

Grant Agreements to WWT & NFF 2023/24

Decision Maker: Executive Director - Regeneration, Housing and Environment

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: Yes


Purpose of Significant Decision:

Extension of grant agreements with Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and National Flood Forum (NFF) to support project delivery of the Smart, Sponge Catchments Project into a second grant period of 2023/24.


The Council is in receipt of an award of up to £7.9m of capital grant funding to deliver the Smart, Sponge Catchments project as Lead Authority. This project is funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as part of the £150 million Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme which is managed by the Environment Agency to develop and test new approaches to resilience tailored to local communities.

The grant funding is for a six-year partnership project from the grant award in April 2021 through to the end of 2026/27. The Council is the lead project partner to oversee project management, financial management, procurement and reporting to the Environment Agency. The partnership is with Buckinghamshire Council, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, National Flood Forum, Thames Water Utilities, Thames 21 and the regional Environment Agency.

The project vision is: Improving resilience to flooding by placing people and nature at the heart of solutions in the Salt Hill and Chalvey Ditches river catchments

The project objectives are:

1. Over the duration of the project, deliver improved surface water flood resilience through strategic retrofitting of nature-based solutions, across the Salt Hill Stream and Chalvey Ditches catchments
2. By the end of the project, develop strategies, tools and resources that will support key stakeholders to work collaboratively to create more sustainable and enriched public places and improve future flood resilience.
3. Test models of engagement and understanding that empower people to be at the heart of decision-making, and to co-create and deliver community-based solutions;
4. Implement monitoring and evaluation of interventions to gather robust evidence, by the end of the project, of impacts for dissemination to stakeholders.

Cabinet Approval

A paper was presented to Cabinet in November 2022 to provide information about the capital grant award to the Council for the project. Approval for sought to continue with the project and to enter into grant agreements with WWT and NFF to support delivery of the Project. The Cabinet decision:

1. Agreed to continuance of the project (subject to grant funding) with the Council as Lead Authority for project management, noting in particular the partnership approach, the proposed procurement strategy and governance arrangements;

2. Delegated authority to the Executive Director – Place and Communities, in consultation with the Lead Member for Transport & The Local Environment to:

(a) Enter into the grant agreements with Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and National Flood Forum (NFF);

(b) Approve extensions and variations to the grant agreements to WWT and NFF, subject to available grant funding, for the life of the project through to April 2027, encompassing extensions for 2023/24, 2024/25, 2025/26 and 2026/7 financial years.

Supporting National and Local Policies:

• The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 places a statutory duty on the Environment Agency to develop a National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England. This strategy describes what needs to be done by all risk management authorities (RMAs), including the Environment Agency, lead local flood authorities, district councils, internal drainage boards, highways authorities and water and sewerage companies. Each must exercise their flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) activities, including plans and strategies, consistently with the strategy.
• The Council, as defined by the 2010 Act, is a Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and as such is responsible for developing, maintaining and applying a strategy for local flood risk management. A LLFA must maintain a register of their flood risk assets and has a duty in investigate flood incidents to the extent that it considers it necessary or appropriate. The LLFA are responsible for flooding from surface water, groundwater and Ordinary Watercourses.
• The Environment Agency’s 2020 National FCERM Strategy recognises that it is not possible to eliminate the risk of all flooding and coastal change and focuses on better protecting properties and reducing the impacts of flooding on people’s lives and livelihoods, through improved resilience. The strategy directs authorities to work with partners to deliver practical and innovative actions to bolster resilience to floods in local places and make greater use of nature-based solutions that take a catchment led approach to managing the flow of water in both floods and droughts. This project is therefore in alignment with the direction of the National Strategy.



To enter into grant agreements with Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and National Flood Forum for 2023/24, for £209,875 and £178,218 respectively, to provide support to deliver the Smart, Sponge Catchments Project.

Alternative options considered:

Legal Implications

• The Decision of the Cabinet on 21 November 2022 was to enter into grant agreements with Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and National Flood Forum (NFF) to continue the project with extensions and variations to the grant agreements to WWT and NFF, subject to available grant funding, for the life of the project through to April 2027, encompassing extensions for 2023/24, 2024/25, 2025/26 and 2026/7 financial years.
• The decision delegated authority to the Executive Director (now Regeneration, Housing & Environment, following the recent Senior Management Restructure) to be taken following consultation with the relevant Cabinet Member – Councillor Manku as portfolio holder for Environment, Environmental Services & Open Spaces.
• Bespoke grant agreements were drafted by the Council’s legal representatives, HB Law, in 2022/23. The agreements were drafted to facilitate annual extensions to the grant period. Schedules 1 (Scope) and 2 (Payments) have been amended to allow for extension into a second grant period. The main body of the grant agreement remains unchanged. HB Law will be instructed to oversee the signing and sealing of the grant agreements.
• The grants shall be required to only be used for the delivery of this project and shall only be made to the extent that the Council has available resources from the EA capital grant to do so. The grant agreements include clauses relating to monitoring and reporting, intellectual property rights, confidentiality, data protection, termination, insurance, liability, warranties, and dispute resolution to protect the Council. Where the Council procures services using grant funding, the Council must comply with its Contract Procedure Rules (CPRs) (and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR) as they apply).

Financial Implications:

• The project, while it would deliver a number of actions from the Council’s corporate strategies and plans, and support development of the emerging Local Plan, does not in itself fulfil the Council’s statutory functions in respect of flood management. However, the project is fully funded by capital grant including for project management and cross-directorate participation by officers. Therefore, the project does help to part finance existing payroll salaries and reduce revenue budget pressure on salaries. Discontinuing the project would mean the Council would need to return grant funds drawn down and forgo officer funding of up to £709k over the life of the project to April 2027.
• The report to Cabinet outlined that the total value of the grants, if agreements were extended through the life of the project to the end of 2026/27 would be £982,000 - £1,220,000 to WWT and £683,000 - £815,000 to NFF. Table 1 of the Cabinet report further detailed the expected maximum values of the grants per financial year (as a range). This is updated in Appendix 1 with the actual values of grant awarded in 2022/23 and proposed to be agreed for 2023/24.
• Delays to the final wording of the clauses of the grant, particularly in respect of VAT liability, meant that the grant values in 2022/23 were significantly reduced, with some works deferred to future financial years. The grants in 2022/23 were consequently significantly below the maximum cabinet range for that financial year. The proposed grant to NFF for 2023/24 is 1.8% above the expected maximum outlined in the Cabinet report, however the total grant to NFF over the two grant periods combined is in the order of 20% below the expected maximum and the total grant award over the project through to 26/27 is still expected to align with the £815,000 maximum value reported to Cabinet. The 23/24 grant to WWT is within the £214,000 upper range reported to Cabinet for this financial year.
• A capital grant funding claim to the Environment Agency for £398,138 was made by the Council in October 2023 to enable the Council to pay the first payments (75%) of the 2023/24 grants to the two charities. A further grant claim of £215,885 will be made in December 2023, which will again include funds for Council officer time and the final grant payments (25%) to WWT & NFF in January 2024. A further grant drawdown will be made by the Council in March 2024 of £195,305. The total capital grant drawdown in 2023/24 will be £859,240. The Council is also in receipt of a further £159,000 grant previously drawn down from the Environment Agency in 2022/23.
• Sufficient capital grant funding is therefore held on receipt to enable the Council to pay the grants to the two charities.

Publication date: 01/02/2024

Date of decision: 15/12/2023

Effective from: 09/02/2024

Accompanying Documents: