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Wichelstowe Development - Case Study Further Details

The Wichelstowe development site comprises 300ha of Greenfield land, which supports a range of important habitats and species including historically and ecologically important hedgerows, great crested newts, water vole and badgers.  The site is proposed for development consisting of 4500 residential units, three schools, business parks, town centre, a country park and associated infrastructure.  Greenfield development at this scale clearly presents a number of challenges in the form of ensuring that ecological features and biodiversity can be maintained and protected alongside delivering a sustainable and economically viable large-scale development, against strong public opposition.

Ecosulis’s strategic and integrated approach at the design stage, outlined below, facilitated the granting of outline planning permission in 2005 and a number of subsequent reserved matters permission. 

As the appointed ecological consultant, our approach was to ensure that we had a sound baseline and understanding of the ecological conditions of the site through undertaking habitat and species surveys.  The results of these surveys then enabled Ecosulis to identify strategic green corridors and management plan areas that would be incorporated into the outline design.  These areas will protect the most valuable ecological features and maintain connectivity across the site and with adjacent habitats, whilst also providing a number of other opportunities such as sustainable drainage and access and recreation.  Ecosulis’s approach to the design of Wichelstowe was cited as a successful example in demonstrating the value of carrying out ecological surveys and building any mitigation or compensation necessary into the design of the scheme well in advance of the development in the Governments "Planning for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation - A Guide to Good Practice (March 2006)".  

Ecology and biodiversity is often a highly emotive topic, particularly on large Greenfield development sites.  Ecosulis attendance at public exhibitions provided opportunities to alleviate concerns from stakeholders and the public by demonstrating that experienced ecologists had been appointed and were supporting the design process.  On-going promotion of the success of the Wichelstowe design (obtained through monitoring) continues with Ecosulis writing regular blogsand providing input into press releases.

Ecology can provide challenges in respect to programming and the long-term timescales for this development requires on-going careful consideration to ensure that survey data required to support reserved matters applications and protected species licences is up-to-date and robust, whilst avoiding unnecessary duplication.  The timing of the provision of mitigation and compensatory habitat also requires careful consideration in respect to enabling construction works to proceed in a timely matter.  The Wichelstowe development was due to be delivered over a 15 year period; however, due to the economic situation delays have been incurred and programming challenges are ever evolving.  The combined consulting and contracting service that Ecosulis provides has ensured that programming issues are dealt with promptly to avoid disruption to applications and construction works.

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