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Biodiversity at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Our recent biodiversity focused site tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park brought together a group of ecologists, engineers, contractors, consultants, academics, with plenty of enthusiasm despite the slightly grey day, to explore how biodiversity was designed into the Olympic Park and see the ongoing work to ensure its integral part in the park’s legacy.

Presentations from Phil Askew, Project Leader Parklands & Public Realm Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Peter Shepherd, BSG Ecology and James Hewetson-Brown, Wildflowerturf Ltd. outlined the overall vision for the Biodiversity Action Plan, subsequent management plan and the work undertaken in the transformation stage to ensure long term biodiversity targets were achieved.

As part of the Olympic Park planning conditions, biodiversity was to be a major consideration, with conditions setting out the provision of the requirement to create 45 hectares of new habitat, including 20 ha of species rich grasslands to replace the loss of previously designated sites of natural conservation importance on the Park, as well as action plans for 28 species or species groups.

The inclusion of Ecology & Biodiversity in the CEEQUAL scheme awards is also a positive step to the ongoing recognition of the biodiversity successes in the Olympic Park development and ongoing legacy, of which the Olympic Park was awarded for seventeen separate schemes and the Eric Hughes Award for Outstanding Contribution to Improving Sustainability in Civil Engineering.
Transforming the existing industrial landscape to the species rich habitat that exists today required a variety of extensive measures including soil washing of 2 million tonnes of soil, with five soil cleaning machines at the onsite soil hospital. A heavily polluted site, the area had been suffering from neglect and become a wasteland and dumping ground for industrial and domestic waster, including the feature of a ‘Fridge mountain’.

The previously canalised River Lea was returned to a fluvial river, and the subsequent landscape was designed to naturally reduce the risk from flooding, allowing for water level increases on a daily, weekly and yearly basis and climate change forecasts for the next 50 years, and created a tapestry landscape of wetland, wet woodland, dry woodland and grass and wildflower meadows.
Biodiversity was a key part driver within the design and landscaping measures to date include:
  • 4,000 trees planted
  • 300,000 wetland plants
  • 525 bird boxes, many set in the bridges
  • 150 bat boxes, some located in the Olympic Stadium structure
  • 8 toadflax habitat patches
  • 4 grass snake egg laying sites
  • 2 kingfisher nesting banks
  • 2 sand martin banks
  • 2 otter holts

With the world watching the development of London’s Olympic Park, the biggest park to be built in Europe in over 150 years, and with an absolute deadline of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, Peter Shepherd and Phil Askew both emphasised the positive and ‘can do’ attitude of everyone involved to ensure that the success of this project and achieving the sustainability goals set out in planning phase, including the Biodiversity Action Plan.

The success of this project has emphasised the value of providing biodiversity action plans for all major projects going forward, and the multi beneficial rewards including increased habitat and species, social amenity value, carbon sequestration, natural flood management, strengthening London’s green infrastructure network and many other aspects.

The BIG Challenge of 'do one thing' invites you to add one new biodiversity enhancement to your construction site, development or existing building. The BIG Challenge recognises the need for biodiversity enhancements in the construction industry. It demonstrates that small enhancements can be a crucial first step in engaging with and delivering biodiversity in the built environment.

The BIG Challenge Awards 2014 will be held on 14 October at Kew Garden, Richmond. Browse the entries here.

Sign up to the BIG Challenge 2015 today.