Project Ideas

VB Project Idea - Brownfield4Biodiversity


Some types of the low nutrient habitat found on brownfield, landfill and wasteland sites have exceptionally high biodiversity value. Such habitats are known in the UK as ‘Open Mosaic Habitat’ and have recently qualified for priority status at a national level because they support a range of rare invertebrates (which are now UK S41 species). These sites act as a refuge (of last resort) for many brownfield species which find the rest of the ‘traditional countryside’ inhospitable due to loss of semi-natural habitats, industrial farming practices and a general ‘tidiness’, with fewer and fewer opportunities for messy, disturbed places.

We need to take action now because the brownfield sites that support this low nutrient form of habitat are under pressure for redevelopment and are disappearing at an alarming rate - at least 50% of the sites of highest importance for invertebrates have been lost to development in the River Thames corridor over the last 5 years. This rate of loss is highly unsustainable, putting rare and endangered invertebrate species at risk of national extinction. The situation is complicated because the location of many of the most important sites within development growth areas such as the Thames Corridor brings direct conflict between biodiversity conservation and regional regeneration and development.

How can we conserve these important habitats while also encouraging and enabling sustainable economic growth and development?

We propose an international study which investigates best practice for Open Mosaic Habitat design, management and mitigation, as well as compensation for sites that have been lost. We would like to work with the key stakeholders responsible for large scale development to explore ways to incorporate biodiverse low nutrient habitats within developments and to manage them sustainably. These stakeholders include developers for residential, commercial and infrastructure projects and the waste management companies that dispose of the aggregates used in development activities, They also include the planning authorities responsible for approving new developments and the local communities who will use them as part of their green infrastructure networks.

New techniques are required for managing Open Mosaic Habitat because its high biodiversity value depends on regular disturbance to maintain early successional habitats – the ground surface needs to be broken up or trampled to prevent an ecological succession to more common habitats, such as scrub or woodland. There is also a need to change the perceptions of local communities and site managers, who typically favour a ‘tidy’ aesthetic, so that they understand and appreciate the value of these ‘scruffy’ habitats.

We aim to guide planning, design and land management decisions in regeneration areas, supporting sustainable development by meeting the twin objectives of biodiversity conservation and economic growth objectives in parallel.

Essex County Council, UK
32 St Barnabas Road


Kate Collins

Tel: +44 (0) 1223 229994

Central Aim

OBJECTIVE – to incorporate the low nutrient habitats associated with brownfield sites within planned, viable urban ecological networks that provide ecosystem service benefits to local communities

Envisaged Output

Key strands of activity for development with EU partners include:

· researching the characteristics of the ecological networks associated with key species and habitats for brownfield sites – including the migration and behaviour patterns of rare invertebrates to show how key species respond to habitat change. What are the minimum habitat requirements for maintaining viable populations and what does the concept of ‘stepping stones’ mean in practice for key brownfield species?

· demonstrating innovative approaches to the management of brownfield sites and creation of open mosaic habitat with options for mitigating habitat that is lost due to redevelopment - scope to use different types of substrate, including secondary waste aggregates, as habitat for rare flora and fauna

· developing integrated systems for habitat monitoring and evaluation, including sites where preliminary surveys have already been undertaken so that we can benefit from lessons learned

· developing guidance for future planning, design and land management decisions in regeneration areas – toolkit approach. Information on habitat and priority species management alongside requirements for mitigation and compensation (through biodiversity offsetting)

· changing attitudes to the appearance of informal open spaces and encourage understanding and appreciation of the untidy, ephemeral landscape aesthetic associated with this form of low nutrient habitat

· delivering case studies – identify sites and viable urban ecological networks for conserving (and possibly creating) Open Mosaic Habitat, taking account of the critical habitat requirements to sustain viable populations. Set up systems for monitoring and evaluation

Thames Gateway case study

The Thames Gateway, to the east of London, has extensive post- industrial landscapes with Open Mosaic Habitat and it is also one of the UK’s prime regeneration areas where there are intense pressures for large scale development. It is an excellent case study location.

Our UK partnership is led by Essex County Council (local authority to the east of London and to the north of the River Thames) with Natural England, the University of East London and Buglife. We are keen to develop an Interreg VB NSR project and we are looking for partners to work with us on this venture. The UK team is particularly interested in developing innovative approaches to the management of brownfield sites and creation of open mosaic habitat. The Thames Gateway is known to have a concentration of Open Mosaic Habitat, for instance on post- industrial land, landfill sites and sea walls, and Essex County Council would like to explore the relationship with the private sector landfill operators working in the area because they are importing large volumes of material as a result of construction activities in London. Essex County Council is the Minerals and Waste Planning Authority for Essex and so has good links to minerals and waste operators in the area. This project could draw up a way of working that is beneficial to biodiversity, the planning authority and developers.

Partners Found Already

Project is being put forward by a partnership of Essex County Council, Natural England, University of East London and Buglife. Other potential project partners are:

  • Scottish Natural Heritage

Partners Sought

Estimated Budget

Thematic Keywords
Brownfield biodiversity, urban ecology

Lead Beneficiary

09 September 2014

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