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Case Study: The Dorset Innovation Park

22 Nov 2021

In January 2018, Purbeck District Council commissioned Tyler Grange to provide detailed ecology, arboriculture and landscape planning advice which would inform the preparation of one of the largest Local Development Orders (LDO) in the country at Dorset Innovation Park. 

The LDO’s core objective was to bring forward long-term employment opportunities within the former Winfrith nuclear energy test facility, a strategic site of County Importance.   

Discover how we contributed to the project’s success, working alongside Stride TreglownHydrockNatural England and the Dorset Natural Environment Team 

 

 

The brief

Purbeck District Council needed a detailed ecology, arboriculture and landscape mitigation and enhancement strategy set out within a comprehensive Landscape and Ecological Management Plan (LEMP).  

A key objective was putting the local landscape character at the heart of the proposal. The client wanted to not only de-risk the site from an environmental perspective but set the standard with exemplary designs, leading to biodiversity net gain. 

The team

Our Ecology Director, Julian Arthur, was the Project Manager. He was supported by: 

  • Hazel Murrells – Ecology Associate 
  • Jennifer Cawood – Associate Landscape Architect 
  • Louis Spencer – Landscape and Arboriculture Consultant 
  • Anneliese Walker – Senior Landscape Consultant  

The client team was led by Stride Treglown, an employee-owned architectural and planning practice. We also worked alongside Natural England, the Dorset Natural Environment Team, Alaska Ecological Contracting and Hydrock, a multidisciplinary engineering design consultancy.   

The challenge

Ecology issues were identified at an early stage as being a significant constraint to the site’s redevelopment. It’s in an ecologically sensitive area, being adjacent to several statutorily protected sites, including Dorset Heathlands SPA and SAC.  

41% of the site was covered in acid grassland priority habitat, 20% of which was very species-rich with several rare plant species recorded, alongside an important assemblage of reptiles, invertebrates and bats.  

Our main challenge was protecting the area’s biodiversity in a way that didn’t negatively impact Purbeck District Council’s aspiration for the site. We also needed to work with the design team to weave the location’s unique heathland character into the site’s green infrastructure (GI). 

The approach

First, we undertook a detailed assessment to identify and evaluate the site’s important features.  

Data underlying the soil conditions were fundamental to inform the habitat mitigation strategy. With this information, the following principles were agreed:  

  • Retention and management of the most important grassland communities and trees.
  • Innovative grassland mitigation, devised with Alaska, involving soil preparation and translocation of as much of the less important acid grassland as possible into other parts of the site’s GI.
  • Designing GI to retain and make a feature of high-quality tree stock. 
  • Retaining and extending the habitats, such as grassland and heathland, that already support important fauna.
  • A lighting strategy to ensure nocturnal wildlife are unaffected and night-time views of the site are protected.  

Owing to the quantum of important habitat within the site, it was agreed with the Dorset NET that additional ecological restoration of the adjacent protected heath would be funded by the client. This would help to deliver the desired biodiversity net gains. 

Tyler Grange calculated the funds necessary using Dorset’s biodiversity compensation framework (akin to Defra’s biodiversity net gain metric).  

Adapting the brief 

Following detailed surveys and consultation with Natural England and the planning authority’s ecologist, the scope of Tyler Grange’s initial commission was increased substantially from the client’s initial brief (once the nature of the issues and the need for innovation to devise a mitigation and enhancement strategy was established).  

This emphasised the need for careful management of our resources and regular dialogue with the client and their team of consultants, plus frequent site meetings with the regulators. 

Effective management of the project also required rigorous recording of correspondence, such as meeting notes and varied iterations to plans and reports throughout the LDO’s preparation as per Tyler Grange’s internal quality assurance procedures.  

The results 

Our work was completed within Purbeck District Council’s timeframe and budget for the LDO’s adoption. In the process, we: 

  • addressed biodiversity gain from the outset 
  • shaped and draughted the necessary environmental and landscape safeguards through many site-specific strategies 
  • liaised with the statutory consultees and addressed the local community’s substantive concerns  
  • delivered a landscape and ecology mitigation plan which maintained and enhanced the on-site ecology 
  • helped to translocate protected acid-rich grassland  
  • helped to secure compensation funding through the plot sale  

In the end, the LDO was consented unanimously.  

The project’s success has already generated tenant interest and begun to create a vibrant environment where collaboration between occupiers is driving meaningful economic growth. 

The client was extremely satisfied with the team’s input. Here’s what Graham Stephens, Director of Stride Treglown, had to say: 

 “I was, and remain, very impressed with the methodical and creative way in which Tyler Grange helped to assess the scale and nature of the opportunity, how their engagement with Natural England sought to address biodiversity gain from the outset, and how proactive they were in shaping and drafting the necessary environmental and landscape safeguards through various site specific strategies. Their input added a robustness to the landscape and ecological approach. I would have no hesitation in recommending Tyler Grange to be part of any major multidisciplinary project team.”  

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