Ecology chapter for environmental statement for Beyond Green sustainable housing development, Norfolk

Sound ecological advice helps sustainable housing development gain planning permission

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Outline planning permission has just been granted for a mixed-use development of homes, shops, schools, and other services just north of Norwich. The project is described as “the most authentically sustainable new development ever built in the UK”.

Multifunctional green spaces, varying in size and character, green infrastructure is a very important component of the proposals for North Sprowston and Old Catton. We will help create a human habitat – an urban place – which is both particularly rich in greenery, texture and ecology, and a distinctive, attractive and enjoyable place to live, work and play.

The 3,520-home sustainable urban extension at North Sprowston and Old Catton in Norfolk, has been proposed by sustainable development company Beyond Green. The proposals have received the green light from planners with a resolution to grant outline planning application consent after The Ecology Consultancy’s East Anglia office worked closely with Beyond Green to turn ecology from a possible constraint into a positive boost for the development.

In addition to more than 3,500 new homes, the proposal includes two new schools, new bus services, and over 80 hectares of green space, including a large country park. Beyond Green proposes a low-carbon decentralised energy network and infrastructure that enables minimal water consumption. Broadland District Council’s planning committee voted 14:1 in favour of the proposals, which demonstrates how convincingly Beyond Green presented the need for sustainable living and their commitment to delivering it. Executive Chairman of Beyond Green, Jonathan Smales, said: “we’ve got to start making proper places again that let us live terrific lives with tiny environmental footprints.”

After more than three years of survey work, report writing and planning the mitigation for protected species on their largest mixed-use project to date, The Ecology Consultancy’s ecologists were able to produce a robust chapter for the Environmental Statement. Natural England commented that “the Environmental Statement covers all the ecological aspects we would expect with an excellent level of detail. We welcome the aspiration for a generous level of green infrastructure across the site”.

Ecology project manager, Dr Graham Hopkins, said: “As the only ecologists involved with the scheme we felt a great responsibility towards our client and I must thank our team at The Ecology Consultancy, for their commitment to undertaking their work to the highest of standards.” The project work started with a scoping survey which was followed by detailed surveys for all the important groups from habitats and bats to arable mosses and invertebrates. In the years since this fieldwork, The Ecology Consultancy has worked to reduce the impact of the project on ecology. As well as formal meetings with stakeholders and consultees, we have attended public consultations fete and special events in Norwich.

The masterplan includes dark corridors to allow bats to travel across the site and a major new country park creating replacement habitat and the restoration of an historic park from arable cropland. Our designs met and often exceeded the latest Bat Conservation Trust recommendations. The wider green infrastructure design includes street trees, pocket parks, green façades and roofs, allotments and sports fields.

Beyond Green acknowledged that The Ecology Consultancy’s high-quality submission helped to significantly inform and speed up the time required for the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), particularly with respect to recreation and The Broads. Unusually for a development of this size, there were no objections on ecological grounds.

“It’s fair to say I’m a bit pleased for Beyond Green” was Dr. Hopkins’s first reaction on seeing the vote for approval. “I think we’ve helped make a little piece of history, with this scheme setting the benchmark in sustainability and reducing ecological impacts”.

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