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We are responsible for the long-term stewardship of three UK Rural Estates: in Cheshire (Eaton Estate); in Lancashire (Abbeystead Estate); and in the North- West Highlands of Scotland (Reay Forest Estate).
From the fertile agricultural land of the Cheshire plains, across the mosaic of habitats which make up our upland moorlands in Lancashire and in the foothills and mountains of the Highlands, our activities span the conservation of precious environments – a substantial proportion of which enjoy statutory protection.
We work to improve a wide range of properties and places – including houses, farms, offices, warehouses and public amenities – and, through the vibrant communities and significant employment they enable, including our own commercial activities, we aim to be a leading example of sustainability in the rural economy.
In 2022, we continued to implement our ambitious Rural Estates Strategy which provides the direction for their future management, and which is driven by a desire to continue to contribute to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the communities we are part of.
In support of our environmental goals, we progressed our net zero carbon strategy on the rural estates, improving our understanding of where our carbon emissions come from and we are working to develop detailed action plans and targets to deliver ambitious carbon reductions.
Furthering our aspiration to become more energy self-sufficient, we expanded our provision of biomass boilers to provide more estate properties with renewable energy. On Grosvenor Farms, our award- winning commercial farm within the Eaton Estate in Cheshire, in addition to supporting the nation’s food security through the production of nutritious cereals and milk, we submitted plans for an anaerobic digester and a neighbouring biogas upgrading facility. This will enable us to recycle manures into biomethane – a renewable natural gas – generating enough energy to heat 5,000 homes a year.
Work has continued on an eco-retrofit of a Victorian cottage which, as well as challenging assumptions about the sustainability and energy performance of historic properties, will develop a template for our future refurbishment programme.
Sophisticated telemetry systems supporting one of the UK’s largest fish monitoring exercises were installed as part of our 10-ear conservation project on the River Laxford at Reay Forest, helping to restore populations of Atlantic salmon and sea trout.
We aim to improve our commercial returns and to reinvest our surplus earnings within the rural estates to accelerate the delivery of our goals. Last year, at Grosvenor TimberWorks, our recently opened state-of-the- art saw milling facility on the Eaton Estate in Cheshire, we became the UK’s only producer of premium, and sustainable, British C24 and C27 grade construction timber.
Our people bring a wide range of experience and expertise, helping us to achieve our ambitions. The continued success of the rural economies we are part of and the communities living and working within them is reliant on inspiring future generations to discover the variety of careers on our estates.
In the last year, we have supported training programmes for endangered crafts and traditional rural skills, such as dry stone walling and planting hedgerows, engaged hundreds of school children through a programme of educational visits and attended college careers fairs.
This year, we plan to introduce a far-reaching supply chain charter, collaborating with our business communities to share our values and together deliver positive environmental, social and ethical change. The charter will clearly set out our own commitments alongside the high standards we expect of those we work with and the support we provide to help them meet these expectations.