Ecological Planning & Research
ecology for garden cities - examples
Recent Relevant Examples of our Work
The Whitehill & Bordon Ecotown
The Whitehill Bordon Ecotown Team
In the first instance, EPR was commissioned by the Whitehill Bordon Ecotown Team to refresh the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) carried out in relation to proposals to deliver the Ecotown (in the region of 3,000 new dwellings) to regenerate the town following the anticipated departure of the military.
Objectives of the HRA Refresh included gathering information to enable an assessment of the implications that the Eco-town Draft Revised Framework Masterplan for European sites (including Kingsley, Broxhead, Shortheath and Ludshott Commons) and their forthcoming access management plans and monitoring strategies, and to enable proposals to progress based upon a sound evidence base. It also identified potential access management solutions to address both existing and potential access issues for the SPAs/SACs, and developed these into outline access management plans that could be delivered in conjunction with the Whitehill & Bordon Eco-town.
Outline Access Management Plans for European sites in the vicinity of the Eco-town were prepared by EPR in consultation with the 'HRA Working Group' which comprised a diverse range of stakeholders, including: the National Trust, Hampshire and Surrey Wildlife Trusts, the MoD, ARC Trust, the Environment Agency, Hampshire County Council, the South Downs National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and local interest groups and local residents. This gave local stakeholders a powerful opportunity to influence the Ecotown proposals as they emerged, in accordance with Garden City principles.
The development of a strong relationship with stakeholders through regular communication, including a number of HRA working group workshops and meetings certainly played an integral part in the success of the project. Round table discussion sessions focused around large, individual site maps proved effective in facilitating the sharing of views and concerns relating to future management of each of the European sites in a relaxed and open environment.
Above: The Whitehill & Bordon Working Group
Our work extended to mapping the spatial distribution of ‘’access impacts’’ using information provided by stakeholders and site managers, against that of Annex 1 birds and habitats, so that management intervention could be targeted at problem areas, and shifted over time to follow these as development progresses.
This information was used to produce an ‘embryonic’ outline access management plan for each European site; to be refined and developed as the Ecotown proposals themselves emerged and developed on an iterative basis. Crucially, these prescribed the essential prerequisite requirements needed to avoid likely significant effects on European sites (thus helping to satisfy the requirements of the Habitats Regulations), whilst leaving plenty of flexibility for solutions to be adapted to changing circumstances as the Ecotown proposals firm up and are delivered.
Following our initial work on the HRA, EPR was subsequently commissioned to carry out a ‘Meanwhile Uses’ Greenspace study. This work looked at how the available land right across the Ecotown area could be turned to positive temporary uses that delivered tangible benefits both for the local community and for nature conservation both in advance of, and during development.
This work was again carried out in conjunction with stakeholder workshops; ensuring that the proposals benefited from local knowledge, as well as maximising the degree to which benefits that local people wanted to see delivered were incorporated; in so doing improving stakeholder support for the project.
The South of the M4 Strategic Development Location
The University of Reading, Taylor Wimpey and David Wilson Homes
This project for in the region of 2,500 homes plus associated infrastructure, including new schools, a relief road, local centre, shops and formal and informal recreation areas, was an opportunity to use an exemplar Green Infrastructure design to deliver on Garden City principles.
Working alongside a multi-disciplinary design team, EPR helped design a suite of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) of just over 40ha, liking with much larger areas of formal and informal green space. The primary objectives of this area were to draw in recreational visitors such as dog walkers to prevent increases in recreational pressure on a nearby Special Protection Area (SPA). However, the benefits of the Green Infrastructure for the project were far more extensive than this.
Collectively, the network of SANG and GI provides an extensive suite of accessible countryside that ‘wraps around’ both existing and proposed new housing; enabling pedestrian and cycle access right from their doorsteps and throughout and between different areas of the development; strongly supporting the Garden City ideals of walkable neighbourhoods.
Further, the suite of SANG areas and GI joins up a total of 4 existing Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs), enabling species to move more easily between them through the countryside in areas that are managed traditionally and sympathetically for wildlife.
In addition, the GI suite ensures that local people have access to these natural areas and can enjoy and benefit from them directly; improving the prospects of better future stewardship.
Natural England commented in their consultation response that the proposals would:
"….showcase how the green infrastructure is helping the environment and getting people into the countryside".
We have now finished delivering the first of the suite of these SANG areas, which is now known as Langley Mead. This area formed the basis of a significant and ambitious floodplain hay meadow restoration project, aimed at re-establishing a rare and threatened but beautiful habitat type that has declined by more than 97% in recent years. This work was the subject of positive articles in the local press, and from the local Wildlife Trust, and is now accessible and can be enjoyed by local people.
EPR’s work on this project for in the region of 3,000 new dwellings was instrumental in overcoming initial objections from Natural England, and eventually drew positive comments from the Local Authority Biodiversity Officer, as the Green Infrastructure designs contributed to several local ‘flagship projects’ for biodiversity enhancement and improving access to the countryside.
The designs made use of the gap between settlements to preserve relict ridge and furrow with species-rich grassland, and form this into the basis for a brand new Local Nature Reserve. This area was linked to a continuous corridor of green space following historic ditches and field boundaries, which will become a mixture of publically accessible wildflower-rich grasslands and wetlands, ponds, native species-rich hedgerows and wooded areas. The driving theme was to deliver better access to stimulating wildlife and interest-rich naturalistic areas for both existing and new residents, whilst using these areas to realise biodiversity benefits.