The River Colne runs through the centre of Colchester and is an important green corridor, linking coastal areas on the east, to flood meadows and beyond on the west. A proposed residential development site at Cowdray Avenue (now recently implemented) lies next to the river in an area of high nature-conservation value, attracting considerable interest from local residents. At the initial master-planning stage Liz Lake Associates was asked by Persimmon Homes to ensure that the site’s ecological assets were given the highest priority and would be fully integrated into the overall design proposals for a submission to the local planning authority. During the construction stage, we were responsible for monitoring implementation on site. We are currently involved in finalising the programme of habitat creation on site, including the conversion of a pill box to a bat hibernaculum, to enable handover of an extensive area of nature conservation land to the Local Authority.
The practice worked closely with local wildlife organisations, specialist ecologists and the local authority to build up a picture of the site’s assets, establishing the best way to conserve and enhance them and to secure agreement on a way forward between the many interested parties via a Section 106 agreement. During the construction phase we made regular visits to monitor and direct woodland management and have recently managed the creation and initial establishment maintenance period of an extensive new wetland area.The complex negotiations led to approximately 40 per cent of the development site being set aside for managed nature conservation, with a further 20 per cent designated for public open space. This approach, together with an integrated housing layout and the provision for a riverside walk and cycleway, helped the eventual success of the project in planning. The newly created ponds, scrapes, ditches and associated terrestrial habitat created in the initial works period have now become well vegetated, with a diverse range of marginal and emergent aquatic species, toads and frogs. A variety of wildfowl have already arrived on the site; the wetland areas are beginning to thrive, creating a sustainable ecological resource for the future.