Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan Growth Options

Chapter Three Green and Blue Infrastructure and the Natural Environment

Introduction

3.1  This chapter seeks to address the following issues: which green and blue infrastructure areas (which consist of a wide variety of multi-functional areas, including water and wetland environments, see Glossary) and other assets, including corridors and individual open spaces, should be identified as being of strategic importance; how proposed development can enhance and protect Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI), nature conservation assets and the wider ecological network; and how we should ensure that new developments achieve net gains in biodiversity.

3.2  Paragraph 20 of the NPPF requires that strategic policies should set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and quality of development, and make sufficient provision for 'conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation'.

3.3  Paragraph 174 of the NPPF also states that plans should identify, map, and safeguard wildlife-rich habitats and the ecological network, including international, national, and locally designated wildlife sites and priority habitats.

Background

3.4  For many local communities, securing high quality GBI in and around their neighbourhoods is essential. The Plan must therefore ensure these spaces are protected and enhanced, and that critically, new developments are accompanied by GBI that benefits both residents and wildlife.

3.5  GBI, nature conservation assets and the wider network across Greater Nottingham can be conserved and enhanced whilst delivering the required new homes, employment, and infrastructure. Critically, the Plan must deliver high quality and accessible GBI for new and existing residents which mitigates the causes and effects of climate change.

3.6  GBI covers a wide variety of open spaces, including water and wetland environments. There is a clear overlap between GBI and ecological networks (see Glossary) which seek to prevent the ecological isolation of habitats and species through the creation of wildlife corridors and stepping stones. The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan[1] has reiterated the importance of identifying and enhancing these corridors, terming them 'Nature Recovery Networks'[2].

3.7  GBI assets are wide ranging and vary in scale. They can comprise small green spaces, such as domestic gardens and street tree avenues, to larger strategically important green spaces such as playing pitches and recreation grounds, river corridors, canals and lakes, cycle routes, local nature reserves and woodlands. They provide a wide range of benefits for people and wildlife, most notably providing benefits for health and wellbeing, improving the attractiveness of an area, mitigating the causes and effects of climate change, and providing habitats and wildlife corridors.

Strategic Green and Blue Infrastructure Assets

3.8  The Greater Nottingham area already has a wealth of GBI assets, notably; the River Trent corridor, areas within the Sherwood Forest, including the Greenwood Community Forest[3], numerous formal parks, local open spaces, and an extensive rights of way network that links the City and rural settlements to the wider countryside.

3.9  Multi-functionality is a key element of GBI. The River Trent corridor cuts across the Greater Nottingham area, providing accessible sport and recreational opportunities, wildlife habitats and an ecological network. It reduces local temperatures during heat waves, and offers non-motorised transport opportunities. Critically, extensive areas of land adjacent to the River Trent and its tributaries have been kept free from development and provide flood water storage during periods of heavy rainfall, reducing flood risks for residents and businesses elsewhere. Places such as Attenborough Nature Reserve also serve important biodiversity purposes.

3.10  Sherwood Forest is located to the north of Nottingham and there are several areas of woodland within the Greater Nottingham area. Comprising extensive areas of important woodland and heathland habitats, these support a number of protected species and some areas have the highest levels of environmental protection. Some woodlands are also designated as 'Open Access Land'[4]. These and others provide an extensive network of accessible natural green spaces for residents within the Greater Nottingham area and beyond.

3.11  Within the City itself, 25% of the City's total land area is made up of accessible open green spaces. This provides opportunities for recreation and enjoyment, as well as contributing to the quality and aesthetic value of the City. Whilst most green spaces are small, Wollaton Park, Colwick Country Park, and Bulwell Hall provide significant spaces for wildlife and recreation. There are numerous allotments, playing fields, sports and recreation grounds, and natural greenspaces that provide local open spaces within walking distances for residents. Many of these are linked (for instance by the River Leen corridor), creating GBI corridors for recreation and wildlife.

3.12  Large areas of open countryside surround the main urban area, towns, and rural settlements. These provide extensive informal recreational opportunities. There is also a significant number of nature conservation sites, including nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest[5], local wildlife sites, and extensive areas of priority habitats (notably woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands). Together, these provide an important ecological network that extends into the City and beyond the Greater Nottingham area.

3.13  GBI corridors are not restricted by local authority boundaries and can extend across administrative boundaries at a regional and national scale. For example, the River Trent corridor extends west through Derbyshire into the West Midlands and north into north Lincolnshire and the Humber Estuary. As a consequence, the alignment of strategic policies across Greater Nottingham offers an opportunity to deliver an effective strategic network of connected GBI and ecological networks.

3.14  Due to their multifunctional nature, some GBI assets will contribute to the ecological network, for example open access woodland, grassland, or heath also provide recreational opportunities. The priority within ecological networks is the protection and enhancement of the natural environment. As these networks will contain extensive areas of privately-owned inaccessible land and so are likely to be mapped separately, any connectivity with GBI assets will need to be identified.

3.15  The protection of important habitats and the delivery of ecological enhancements at a landscape scale, rather than individual sites, ensures a coherent network of connected habitats is maintained and improved.

3.16  The existing aligned Core Strategies for Broxtowe, Gedling, and the City of Nottingham, does not currently identify individual infrastructure assets, but specifically identifies regional and sub-regional networks. These were informed by the 6Cs Green Infrastructure Strategy[6] and include the river and canal corridors, the Greenwood Community Forest and Urban Fringe areas as locations where green infrastructure should be delivered in conjunction with major regeneration and residential development.

3.17  Rushcliffe's and Erewash's Core Strategies also identify the river corridors (Trent and Erewash), Grantham Canal, the Erewash Valley Trail, Hopewell to Dale Greenway, Great Northern Greenway, and Nutbrook Trail and urban fringe areas as locations where green infrastructure should be delivered. Erewash specifically identifies links between Nottingham and Derby and Ilkeston and Long Eaton.

3.18  Figure 3.1 shows the strategic GBI assets and corridors within the Greater Nottingham area.

Figure 3.1: Strategic Green and Blue Infrastructure

Map showing the areas covered by the Green and Blue Infrastructure over the strategic area

Question GBI1: Strategic Green and Blue Infrastructure Assets

  • Are there other areas, corridors, or individual open spaces that should be identified as Strategic Green and Blue Infrastructure?

Flood Risk

3.19  GBI can make an important contribution to the reduction in flood risk. For example, open spaces adjacent to the River Trent provide extensive flood water storage areas, and across Greater Nottingham, green spaces allow rain water to infiltrate into the ground, reducing surface water run-off.

3.20  Paragraph 20 of the NPPF requires that strategic policies make sufficient provision for infrastructure for flood risk management. It requires new development to be planned in ways that address the impacts of climate change, which include a greater amount of rainfall. This should be achieved by using opportunities provided by development to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding and, where appropriate, through the use of natural flood management techniques. Critically, developments should not increase flood risks elsewhere and major developments should incorporate sustainable drainage systems that provide multifunctional benefits and have agreed maintenance arrangements.

Protecting and Enhancing the Natural Environment

3.21  Critical to the delivery of net gains in biodiversity and effective ecological networks are the Local Biodiversity Action Plans[7] (LBAP) for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. These identify the priority habitats and species which can be found across the Greater Nottingham area and which provide important corridors for wildlife.

3.22  Building on the LBAP, the Nottinghamshire Biodiversity Opportunity Mapping Project[8] has identified areas where there is the opportunity for key habitats and focal areas within the Sherwood Forest, Trent Valley, Broxtowe Borough and Rushcliffe Borough areas. These should inform the identification of important ecological networks within the Greater Nottingham area and the habitats delivered within them to achieve net gains in biodiversity. Within Rushcliffe Borough, the Local Plan Part 2 identifies these opportunity areas and requires developments to protect and enhance each area's identified priority habitats.

3.23  The Trent Valley Vision and Trent Valley Living Landscape[9] provide landscape-scale strategies for the delivery of development and enhancement of the natural environment along the Trent Valley. These could inform the identification of opportunities to improve wildlife sites and their connectivity.

Strategic Allocations and Policies

3.24  Depending upon the housing and employment needs across the Greater Nottingham area for the period up to 2038, further strategic sites may be required. The development of these allocations is likely to have significant effects upon the natural environment, and the provision of GBI will be required to meet the needs of new residents and employees. Such infrastructure could provide important habitats and corridors for wildlife and avoid, or at the very least, reduce losses in biodiversity. The provision of GBI would therefore ensure the delivery of sustainable strategic sites, which are also attractive to new residents and employees who value the proximity of multi-functional green open spaces. Whilst the inclusion of GBI may reduce the developable area of sites, it can, if integrated correctly, increase the value of the development overall. In addition to strategic allocations, this Plan should also ensure non-strategic development delivers GBI.

Question GBI2: Strategic Allocations and Policies

  • How can proposed development enhance and protect Green and Blue Infrastructure, nature conservation assets and the wider ecological network?

Biodiversity Net Gains

3.25  The enhancement of the natural environment can be achieved by providing net gains in biodiversity. National policy requires that plans identify and pursue measurable net gains in biodiversity. The Government has stated that, within the Environment Bill[10], it intends to make the achievement of a 10% net gain mandatory for new development.

3.26  In November 2018, The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published their proposed 'Biodiversity Metric'[11]. The Metric uses habitat to describe biodiversity, which is converted into measurable 'biodiversity units', according to the size of each type of habitat. The Metric scores different habitat types (e.g. woodland, grassland) according to their relative biodiversity value and adjusts this according to the condition and location of the habitat.

3.27  The delivery of net gains could be achieved either within developments, or through the creation of new habitats or the enhancement of existing habitats elsewhere. The Plan will consider how developments should contribute to achieving net gains.

Question GBI3: Biodiversity Net Gains

  • How should we ensure new developments achieve net gains in biodiversity?