Heal deal major breakthrough moment for UK rewilding

Multimillion pound loan agreement with Direct Line Group to help with nature recovery

The nature recovery charity Heal Rewilding announced today that it has reached agreement on a £3 million package of financial support from Direct Line Group. This arrangement means that Heal can bring forward its original acquisition timing of 2022 for its foundation site in the south of England and buy it this year, providing a suitable landholding can be identified.

The support is being provided by Direct Line Group in the form of a commercial loan facility with advantageous financial terms and conditions. Restricted funds given by donors for land purchase will form part of the additional amount needed to fund the first site and Heal is also in discussions with Triodos Bank UK, part of Europe’s leading sustainable bank, about further financial support. Triodos recognises the scale of investment that will be needed to restore the natural environment in order to effectively reverse climate change and biodiversity loss.

Despite the difficulties of launching and operating entirely under pandemic restrictions, Heal has garnered support from many quarters. In addition to the loan from Direct Line Group, the charity has received over 2,000 donations from private individuals, been given its first grant from the John Spedan Lewis Foundation and had support in cash or kind from numerous companies, with its land fund now approaching six figures.

Its innovative crowd-donating ‘Heal 3x3’ scheme, linking donors to a future square of land with a what3words address, has been particularly popular, especially at Christmas and other special occasions. Hundreds of people have also signed up as volunteers, with 60-70 people from all age groups and with a broad range of professional skills currently helping each month with desk-based tasks.

Jan Stannard, Co-founder and Chair of Trustees at Heal, said:

“This support from Direct Line Group is the most wonderful news so early in our second year. We are so thankful to the insurer’s senior management team, who saw the opportunity to help nature and the climate within a commercial framework. This generous support will be instrumental in moving us towards our first milestone – our foundation rewilding site in the south of England. We also plan to use the facility for our second site, which will be in the north of England.

“The provision of this lending is hugely significant, not just for Heal but as an example of how the private sector can find new ways to make a material difference to the massive national effort needed to restore nature and address climate change. It will help raise the UK from our woeful position as the nation ranked 189th out of 218 countries for biodiversity intactness. Our wildlife and environment are in deep crisis. We hope other companies will follow Direct Line Group’s example.”

Neil Manser, Chief Financial Officer at Direct Line Group, said:

“Over the last sixteen months the pandemic has demonstrated the value of protecting our natural environment, the importance of green spaces for our wellbeing and just how much business, government, charities and individuals can deliver when they work together.

“We are actively accelerating the steps we’re taking to give back more to the planet than we take out and by enabling Heal to draw down on the loan facility to support the acquisition of its first two sites, progressing their journey to have a rewilding site in every English county. “