Enhancing nature on brownfield sites

United Kingdom

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Across the UK, brownfield land often presents great potential in supporting resident and migratory birds, given the proximity of some industrial zones to estuaries and coastlines. We supported Associated British Ports (ABP) in the redevelopment of a brownfield site at the mouth of the Humber Estuary through the design and creation of a wetland environment for migratory birds.

Through this project, we demonstrated how our breadth of experience can provide real value for clients looking to extract natural capital from brownfield redevelopments. By employing the sustainable re-use of soils and materials, we enhanced the biodiversity of the site in a cost-effective manner, remaining sensitive to the protected status of the local area.

The site is within an area protected for its nationally and internationally significant nature conservation value. Planning permission granted for use of the site as storage for import and export vehicles specified that an ecological area should be created as part of the development. We assisted ABP by designing and enabling this scheme, thereby enhancing the value of the area for wildlife, particularly migratory birds, and releasing the potential of the remainder of the site for active use by the client.

Circular approach to materials

To provide the most cost effective and sustainable solution, we developed a materials management plan to outline the appropriate re-use of materials on-site which could create the habitat while avoiding risks to the surrounding environment. As careful management was required to redistribute material from brownfield land so close to the Humber, we provided detailed risk assessments, in accordance with the Environment Agency guidance, ensuring the soils used were safe for wildlife and water. By removing the need to import, extract or haul raw materials, we minimised negative impacts to the environmental and delivered economic benefits by re-using site-won material.

Resilient enhancements with social benefits

The development has been successful in creating an important habitat for wading birds such as curlew, a species that has suffered significant decline over recent decades due to habitat loss and is one of the UK’s most important conservation priorities. We also created additional habitat for water voles present on the site.

Our resilient and cost-effective solution allowed ABP’s development to proceed on time and budget, and delivered social, economic and environmental benefits. These enhancements to an already important area for a range of wildlife provide not only benefit nature, but also give bird watchers, walkers and the local community a natural space, with public footpath access overlooking the site.