Green Recovery Challenge Fund evaluation

Green Recovery Challenge Fund evaluation

These reports examine the delivery of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, presenting findings on the impact of its funded projects.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) was a short-term, competitive fund, developed as a direct response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It aimed to kick-start environmental renewal in England, while creating and retaining a range of jobs.

The GRCF totalled an £80million fund, delivered in two rounds. It was distributed by the Heritage Fund on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and its arm’s length bodies, including Natural England, the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency. 

Supporting environmental projects 

The GRCF aimed to support environmental charities and their partners to deliver projects focusing on nature restoration, nature-based solutions and connecting people with nature.

It was designed to fulfil the goals of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP), whilst helping to sustain and build capacity in the sector.

Green Light Trust participants taking a break
Green Light Trust - Inclusive Conservation project funded through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund 

The evaluation reports

The evaluation has three strands:

  1. how the policy decisions behind the creation of the GRCF were put into practice and what can be learned from this process
  2. the impact that the funded projects have had in the land and nature sector
  3. the extent to which the programme represents value for money

Round 1 findings

Round 1 final report

The final evaluation report details the impact projects have had across the main themes of the GRCF. The headline figures are: 

  • Nature conservation and restoration – projects delivered activities at 930 locations around England, directly benefiting 326,000 hectares of land; while 1.1million trees have been planted, exceeding original targets by 37%.
  • Connecting people with nature – more than 170,000 people have been engaged by GRCF projects through more than 9,400 in-person and online events.
  • Employment – funding has directly supported 653 positions during the life of the projects. 

The report also explores the value for money of the programme and the lessons that can be learnt from the delivery of the GRCF round 1 overall.

Round 1 interim report 

The interim report provides an in-depth review of how the funding was launched and delivered, focusing on the early stages of the programme. The main findings included: 

  • Project applicants and GRCF stakeholders generally agreed that the programme met the needs of the organisations working in the land and nature sector. 
  • The GRCF balanced the immediate financial needs of the sector resulting from the pandemic with funding for longer term environmental objectives. 

Group of young people standing in front of river
River regeneration at Cody Dock – The charity Gasworks Dock Partnership, which received funding through the GRCF

Round 2 findings

Round 2 second interim report

The second interim report details the impact projects have had at their mid-point. The headline figures are: 

  • Nature conservation and restoration – to date projects have delivering activities at 922 sites, directly benefiting 98,968 hectares of land. 52% of these sites have are designated or protected – including 12% which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 
  • Connecting people with nature – 104,750 people have engaged with 6,329 events held so far. 
  • Employment – projects have reported 706 job roles being supported. Of these, 68% roles have been created for GRCF specifically, and 18% are roles protected from redundancy. 

The report also explores the challenges projects have faced in delivering their projects, and the key overall benefits that the GRCF has had for them so far. 

Round 2 first interim report

The first interim report presents an initial view of the impact of the 90 projects funded in round 2, drawing on data collected from projects during their first few months. Findings included:

  • Project activity is taking place at 1,128 locations across England, with 10% of project sites located within National Parks and 8% within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Projects have planted 88,243 trees, almost one third of which are in the north west. 
  • 45,055 people have engaged with nature at 2,999 project events.

Round 2 projects are due to complete in summer 2023, and the evaluation will be finalised later in the year. 

Find out more

To read more, you can download the full reports from this page. 

Our research and evaluation

We regularly conduct research to discover what is happening in the heritage sector, and we evaluate our work to better understand the change we are making. Read more of our insight.