Rob Forbes, ecology expert on the Sharpness Vale project team, explains how Sharpness Vale’s vision is to go above and beyond standard requirements to boost and protect nature, leading to biodiversity gain.

Biodiversity net gain requires developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.  At Sharpness Vale we are aiming higher, in the full appreciation that we are located in a very special part of the world. The Severn Estuary is of international significance for overwintering and migratory birds and as such is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA). 

Over half of Sharpness Vale will consist of new green spaces. Our vision is to provide a web of new and existing natural spaces that will weave throughout Sharpness Vale’s neighbourhoods, acting as green corridors so that wildlife can continue to safely move across the landscape. 

As project ecologists, my team and I have come to know and deeply appreciate Sharpness over many years. From dawn bird surveys to late night bat surveys, we have spent countless hours surveying for a wide range of species and habitats. As such, we have built up a valuable understanding of the site and the surrounding landscape’s special ecological value. This knowledge has informed the evolution of the masterplan. It has allowed us to develop a robust green infrastructure strategy that is at the heart of the Sharpness Vale ethos and values. The green infrastructure not only protects wildlife interests but will also deliver net gains in biodiversity. 

We have worked closely with Natural England and Stroud District Council to devise and agree a strategy that will mitigate against potential impacts from recreation upon the SPA. This is through the creation of a substantial and exciting new nature reserve around Berkley Pill high tide roost, along with careful management of public rights of way, access and community engagement. It also involves creating large areas of alternative recreational space for dog walkers. 

Sharpness Vale’s green spaces will include retained, enhanced and newly created habitats of value to locally important species such as wetland birds, dormice, bats and badgers. This is fundamental to achieving Sharpness Vale’s vision of exceeding the emerging Environment Bill requirements for developments to deliver 10 per cent biodiversity net gain and deliver a sustainable climate friendly development.