The proposal was residential-led but mixed use, with two new schools, public open space and over 80 hectares of arable reversion to create a large country park to adjoin nearby Beeston Park in Norfolk.
The Ecology Consultancy were the project ecologists throughout, from an initial strategic ecological assessment, through baseline surveys, to final technical reporting and preparation of the ecology chapter for the environmental statement. Surveys covered habitats, protected species and arable bryophytes and invertebrates.
To accompany the planning submission a ‘shadow’ Habitats Regulations Assessment was prepared, with particular emphasis on potential recreation impacts on The Broads. This included a comprehensive review of disturbance impacts on birds, a review of the important species and habitats in The Broads, and the analysis of visitor data to provide projections of future increases in visitor numbers. The ‘full’ Appropriate Assessment prepared by the local planning authority agreed with the shadow assessment that recreational impacts on The Broads could be minimised through the provision of on-site mitigation, with Beeston Park being of great value in this role.
As part of the design team, The Ecology Consultancy input to the masterplan included buffer zones around important woodland parcels, as well as dark corridors across the site to allow continued foraging by light-sensitive bats, such as long-eared and barbastelle bats. Green infrastructure has been designed to maximise both nature conservation and recreational value. We continue our involvement with detailed design matters, such as new grassland creation and lighting schemes appropriate for bats.
Stakeholder consultation was an important part of our work, including frequent meetings from an early stage with local organisations and ecologists, as well as public consultations and special events in Norwich.
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. Outline planning permission was granted in September 2013, after Broadland District Council’s planning committee voted 14:1 in favour of the proposals. Unusually for a development of this size, there were no objections on ecological grounds.