Delivering Green Infrastructure for Growth - Places for people and wildlife

Zoe Hilditch, Technical Support Officer, Cormac Solutions Ltd
 
I joined Cormac Solutions Ltd in January 2018 following graduation from The Open University with BSc Environmental Studies. My role within the project delivery team for Green Infrastructure for Growth (GI4G) has been in coordinating scheme design, working with clients, designers, landscape architects (Cornwall Environmental Consultants) and implementation of works on site. 

The £3.5M project was granted £2.8M by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The project is a major example of environmental growth in Cornwall, proactively delivering on commitments set out in Cornwall Council’s Environmental Growth Strategy (Cornwall, 2015) rather than merely responding to planning conditions. The Green Infrastructure for Growth project has led the way in Environmental Net Gain and worked with local communities to re-think areas of our urban green space.

Previously green infrastructure assets were dominated by areas of heavily mown grass of low biodiversity value. The project target to improve 35Ha of public urban spaces across 7 towns has been exceeded. Biodiversity net gain has been achieved through the creation of 40Ha of:

  • Terrestrial habitats through the planting of new shrubs, pollinator friendly plants, tree planting and creation of new wildflower meadows;
  • Artificial habitats such as bird, bat and dormouse boxes and installation of a bee village using a Cornish company’s ‘Bee Post’ designed to provide nesting sites for solitary bees
  • Aquatic habitats including ponds and wetland areas.

Project partners, the University Of Exeter, have monitored and evaluated all schemes in the GI4G programme. In addition to plant habitat surveys, important data has been gathered on the change in public attitudes to the use and enjoyment of urban public space focusing on public support for biodiversity increase. The response from the community has been extremely positive. University Of Exeter has developed a biodiversity assessment method for urban areas involving habitat area and quality. This will be used as part of Cornwall's new Biodiversity Net Gain Guidance for Developers.

The project was recently awarded the Project of the Year Medium/Large Scale and the Overall Winner of the BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards 2019. The project was also awarded the overall prize for going above and beyond what is expected, its extensive benefit to biodiversity and the fact the judges viewed it as being highly replicable.

It has been a huge privilege to be involved in a project that deliveries biodiversity net gain which has been well received by local communities and residents. I was honoured to represent Cormac Solutions Ltd and Cornwall Council at the BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards and to accept these awards. Looking to the future, I am looking forward to delivering the second phase of green infrastructure enhancements commencing 2020 and once again contribute to increasing Biodiversity Net Gain across urban centres in Cornwall.

Find out more about the CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge.