Delivery Projects in the Swindon Urban Area
Below is a list of conservation projects and initiatives that are delivering, or have the potential to deliver, opportunities to reconnect and enhance priority habitats and species within the Swindon urban limits. This list has been compiled in collaboration with the Wiltshire and Swindon Biodiversity Action Plan Steering Group and the wider BAP Partnership. This list highlights some of the work that can be done to enhance our natural environment but there will be many more projects and priorities willl be reviewed on a regular basis by the new Link2Nature Biodiversity Working Group, as well as the wider LNP Partnership.
Local Wildlife Sites Project
The Local Wildlife Sites project is integral to the monitoring and conservation of priority habitats in Wiltshire and Swindon. At present there are more than 1,500 recognised Wildlife Sites in Wiltshire and Swindon, with 24 within the Swindon urban area covering approximately 170 ha of land. The Local Wildlife Sites project generally has quite good coverage of neutral and calcareous grassland and larger woodland sites. However, more survey effort is needed to incorporate smaller parcels of priority habitats (generally less than 2 hectares) which have received less monitoring effort or inclusion as Wildlife Sites. This is particularly applicable to areas within and surrounding the Swindon urban area where priority habitats are primarily restricted to smaller patches within the urban environment. Considerable biodiversity benefits could be attained by increasing the scope of the Local Wildlife Sites project to include hedgerows, traditional orchards and arable margin habitats which form important components of the wider ecological network and GI structure.
Great Western Community Forest
Initiated in the early 1990s, the Great Western Community Forest (GWCF) is one of England’s 12 Community Forests where local people and organisations are working together to create a better environment. GWCF is creating high-quality environments for local people by diversifying land-use, revitalising derelict landscapes, enhancing biodiversity and providing new opportunities for leisure, recreation, cultural activity, education, healthy living and social and economic development. GWCF continues to play a crucial role in contributing to sustainable development in Swindon, the urban fringes and in the varied and beautiful surrounding countryside.
Swindon Twilight Bat Project
A Heritage Lottery Fund project run by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust which aims to inspire residents of Swindon Borough about bats and engage them in the conservation of their local bat populations. This community focused project aims to train a group of local volunteers in bat work, e.g. the use of bat detectors, bat box checking and other bat conservation measures. Public events, including bat walks, talks and displays, aim to raise awareness and educate a wide range of people about these fascinating but often misunderstood and highly vulnerable creatures. The project also aims to generate bat records and undertake baseline surveys, contributing towards species distribution data across Swindon Borough. The project is also concerned with helping to conserve the priority habitats which are vital to the long term survival of bats such as woodland, riparian and green corridors.
Swindon Green Infrastructure Strategy
Swindon Borough Council has already produced a Green Infrastructure Strategy 2010-2026. Planning for, and enhancing Swindon’s Green Infrastructure is an essential part of realising the long term aspirations embedded within Swindon’s Community Strategy and the medium term priorities set out in One Swindon. The Swindon GI Strategy should be consulted for strategic guidance on restoring and enhancing the interconnected network of open spaces and green corridors across Swindon Borough and beyond. If GI is to play a central role in Swindon’s sustainable growth it is essential that GI planning is integrated with, and supports, other key local plans and strategies and ultimately the Community Strategy and its delivery plan: One Swindon. Moreover, the delivery of components of the proposed GI network and wider GI is dependent on plans and activities embedded within other key documents such as the Great Western Community Forest Plan, North Wessex Downs AONB Management Plan, Cotswold Water Park, and National Trails’ strategies.
Swindon Local Plan 2026
The Swindon Local Plan 2026 includes specific policies for the conservation and enhancement of areas identified in the Swindon Urban Area section of the Landscape addition to the Wiltshire and Swindon Biodiversity Action Plans. The Local Plan outlines the council’s policies for the Borough, including specific policies relating to the urban area. Policy SC2 relates to Swindon’s urban centre. This policy states that the priorities for the green space network across Swindon’s urban area are:
- Strengthening the connections along and extending Swindon’s existing green corridors;
- Greening Swindon town centre through the delivery of a ‘green spine’.
- A section on ‘Safeguarding our environment for future generations’ is included within the Swindon Local Plan.
This included policies which aim to:
- Protect and enhance Swindon’s sense of place, landscape and historic setting;
- Adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change;
- Deliver a network of green spaces for people and wildlife;
- Reduce waste and make more efficient use of all environmental resources;
- Maximise opportunities to deliver energy from local renewable sources.
Suitable development sites that are necessary to delivery of the Local Plan have been identified through the council’s Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). Future developments are currently focussed on Wichelstowe, the Eastern Villages, Tadpole farm, Commonhead and the regeneration of the town centre. It is important to ensure that the vision and policies outline in the Local Plan are implemented to safeguard and enhance the natural environment within and adjacent to these development areas.
Swindon’s Central Area Action Plan (CAAP)
The Central Area Action Plan details proposals for regeneration of Swindon Town centre and the wider central area of the town. The CAAP includes policies and proposals on green roofs, enhancing GI through Central Swindon and re-instatement of the canal through Swindon. Improvements to the GI within the town centre are focused around the development of a Green-Spine with enhanced links to existing parks and open spaces. Green roofs have a particularly important role to play within Swindon’s Town Centre where opportunities for creating new green-spaces are limited and where the benefits of enhanced GI could be far-reaching.
Water Framework Directive and Flood Risk Management
The Environment Agency is leading actions to improve water quality and achieve good ecological status in rivers and other water bodies by 2015 to comply with the EU Water Framework Directive. It is also working with partners to ensure that water supplies and waste water are well managed, to help reduce abstraction and pollution. In particular, work is underway to reduce the impact on the River Kennet of water abstraction to supply Swindon by securing alternative supplies. In addition to this it is important to ensure that the new statutory duties imposed on local authorities to manage flood risk also benefit biodiversity. There have been significant works put in place to manage waterways in areas of Swindon at risk from flooding such as at Haydon Wick. These works have included the removal of vegetation and scrub along the Haydon Wick Brook which provide important nesting sites for birds and cover for other wildlife. Flood risk management works should not negatively impact biodiversity, with efforts made to increase overall biodiversity through mitigation and offsite measures.
Local Community Action and volunteering
Community action and local volunteering are key to the approach for wildlife conservation in Swindon. Decision making is being localised in Swindon with power being devolved to the Localities of which there are seven in Swindon; North, North East, North Central, East, West, South and Town Centre (see Appendix, figure 10). There are increasing efforts to move decision making to the heart of communities and organisations such as ‘One Swindon’ are helping to tap into grass roots grants held by the Localities. Local groups are important in conserving the priority habitats within their local area with examples of community working at Seven Fields Local Nature Reserve, Peatmoor Copse, Highworth Countryside Park, vision for Wroughton. Additionally, there are active volunteers groups coordinated by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Swindon Borough Council Volunteer Rangers.
Nature Reserves and Country and Local Parks
There are a number of Local Nature Reserves in the Swindon urban and peri-urban areas which contribute at a local level to the protection of areas of priority habitat and green spaces. There are four within the Swindon urban area: Seven Fields in north Swindon and Radnor Street Cemetery, Rushey Platt Canal Park, and the Quarry Wildlife Garden in and around south Swindon and Old Town. In the peri-urban area there are several larger reserves; Coate Water to the south of Swindon, Stanton Park to the north and Jubilee Lake near Royal Wootton Bassett. These Local Nature Reserves form a strong component of the GI network and represent important areas for wildlife within the urban area from which green corridors should be established. The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has four reserves in the Swindon urban area: Swindon Lagoons, Rivermead, Rushey Platt and Hagbourne Copse. There is also a high concentration of reserves within northern Wiltshire and Swindon Borough with twenty further reserves in this area. Further details of WWT reserves can be found via the Trust’s reserves website.
Biological Monitoring and the State of the Environment Report
The Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre now have over one million records. This provides an important resource and a great opportunity for monitoring species and habitat data within Wiltshire and Swindon. Advanced filtering and analysis of this data is required to identify reliable long term data sets which can be used to analyse trends in species and habitats numbers. The annual State of the Environment report for Wiltshire and Swindon produced by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust provides data and analysis of the status and trends in a wide range of environmental issues, including land use, climate change, air quality and waste. The reports and further detailed sources of information are available on the Wiltshire Intelligence Network website.
To see the full Swindon Urban Area Landscape-scale Conservation Framework please click on the link below