Utilising high quality biodiversity information alongside other contextual data to provide well-designed green infrastructure plans.
Housing growth in Norfolk increases visitors to Natura 2000 sites. Many proposed housing developments are close to sensitive sites, and two thirds show adverse impacts from recreation and access.
Green infrastructure (GI) can be used to mitigate this and effective planning is key to this process.
Information on biodiversity is important for targeting GI, but equally important is data on how visitors are using sites. Understanding where they come from and what they do ensures effective on site measures and suitable alternative natural greenspace delivery elsewhere.
Visitor surveys at Natura 2000 sites give information of the home addresses and onsite activities of visitors. This allows assessment of the likely increase in visitors and activity from planned housing growth and allows appropriate site management and targeting of GI delivery.
Using biodiversity data to provide the basis for modelling to identify existing ecological networks and potential opportunities, maps have been produced to guide GI delivery in Norfolk. This has culminated in a strategic GI map identify target corridors and core habitat areas for delivery. This map is now being used in Local Plan documents in Norfolk to provide a strategic approach to GI delivery.
On behalf of eight Local Planning Authorities and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk County Council has produced maps to be used at a strategic and site level to guide GI delivery to mitigate the impacts of development on Natura 2000 sites.
A good baseline of biodiversity data and information is needed as are visitor surveys of Natura 2000 sites.
Data is held by Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service = £80000 per annum
Visitor surveys = £30000
Ecological network and opportunity mapping = £15000
Evidence of success
The outputs from the work are now being used by all eight Local Planning Authorities in Norfolk to guide delivery of GI.
The maps are now being used to develop a Norfolk GI strategy that will target local and strategic level GI provision. They will also guide the development of a potential funding system for GI utilising a levy on new development to taget appropriate mitigation measures.
Throughout the process of developing the maps it has been essential to ensure that stakeholders understand the potential of the outputs. Equally important is an understanding of what the products can't do.
Potential for learning or transfer
The work to deliver effective GI targetting maps for Norfolk forms a potential model for other regions by showing how high quality biodiversity data can be used to provide an effective resource for decision-makers. It also illustrates how data can be used to deliver the requirements of policy such as the National Planning Policy Framework for England.
Alongside this it shows that by involving additional contextual data such as visitor surveys effective tools can be produced.
Valuable lessons have been learned about stakeholder engagement and expectation management which could be applied in other regions.