Exceptional ecological project wins national awards

“Build it and nature will come” – Exceptional ecological project wins national awards

A pioneering project to create a rich natural habitat for rare insects, plants and other wildlife out of a previously lifeless, barren area of land in the Hamptons, Peterborough, has won two prestigious awards from the body that recognises the outstanding work of ecologists and environmental managers across the UK and Ireland.

Following 20 years of careful development, the Hamptons now boasts more than 1,000 acres of open space, lakes and woodland areas, providing a habitat for a huge range of birds, reptiles, insects and rare plants, and thought to be the highest amount of green space per resident in any new development in the country. However, much of the site has had to be created from scratch, surrounded by the legacy of more than a hundred years of brickmaking and other industrial uses.

The latest partnership project at the Hamptons between O&H Hampton Ltd, BSG Ecology and nature conservation charity Buglife has turned one of those brownfield sites into an extraordinary, thriving hotspot for nature.

Last week the project won the best Small-scale Mitigation Award and Tony Bradshaw Award for outstanding best practice from CIEEM, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

The Tony Bradshaw Award recognizes exceptional projects, and is only made on a discretionary basis. It was a great accolade for O&H Hampton, BSG and Buglife to win this.

The judges noted that the Hamptons project demonstrated best practice in terms of habitat-creation techniques, sustainability and collaborative working, as well as clear benefits to nature.

Monitoring at the site has recently revealed the presence of over 400 invertebrate species, including the rare black-headed mason wasp and three other species of principal importance, one nationally endangered and 13 nationally scarce species. The site also supports more than 60 different plant species and a particular type of plant bug that was formerly considered extinct.

The results of the project have now been put into the public domain to inform similar initiatives and to help other landowners and property developers.

Roger Tallowin of O&H Hampton said:

“O&H Properties has a long-term approach to the careful stewardship of our natural resources. The Hamptons is recognised internationally for its nature reserves and its commitment to biodiversity.

“But what we have now shown in the latest area of development is that it’s also possible to create a rich ecological environment from scratch which can then be moved in the future, if done in a responsible way. This is an important lesson for all landowners and developers.

“In 2007 we started with a totally barren area of scraped clay and used it as a test site. We added many different grades of brick, gravel, wood and other recycled materials to replicate a brownfield site and then left nature to get on with it. With surveying and monitoring support from BSG and Buglife, we can now see the thriving ecosystem taking over. It proves our view: build it and nature will come.”

Dr Peter Shepherd, partner at BSG Ecology, said:

“This project arose because O&H has always been open to opportunities to enhance biodiversity within its developments. Today the Hamptons supports a rich and varied wildlife, including of course the largest population of great crested newts in Europe.

“O&H has always recognised the valuable contribution this wildlife-rich green infrastructure plays in creating great places for people to live and work. As such, when the opportunity arose to trial and monitor the creation of brownfield habitats it was no surprise to me that they were up for the challenge and gave the time, materials, machinery and support required to make it happen.

“Not only has the trial proved successful, it has provided a basis for building on existing relationships with Buglife from which other positive measures for pollinators are now being undertaken by O&H in the Hamptons. And of course, it has provided evidence of how to create these valuable habitats in future.”

Owain Gabb, partner at BSG Ecology, added:

“Everyone on the project is particularly delighted to receive the Tony Bradshaw award. This is a very big deal in the ecology world. It is for outstanding best practice, and is not awarded on an annual basis by CIEEM – the project really needs to stand out. The Hamptons really delivers on all these fronts.”

Paul Hetherington, director of Buglife, said:

“The brownfield mitigation work in Peterborough has proven to be a very successful and replicable method to create positive homes for wildlife that thrives on the open mosaic habitats found on brownfield sites.

“Subsequent study shows that done in the right way these sites can play an important role in the long-term survival of some of our rarer species. We are delighted that this partnership work with O&H and BSG has been recognised by our peers.”