Page 1

Contacting Swale Borough Council The Customer Service Centre deals with all enquiries across the Council; it should be your first stop when contacting us. Copies of this Swale Borough Council plan are available on the Council website www.swale.gov.uk If you would like further hard copies or alternative versions (i.e. large print, audio, different language) we will do our best to accommodate your request. Please contact the Council at: Swale Borough Council Swale House, East Street Sittingbourne Kent, ME10 3HT Customer Service Centre

Swale Green Grid Strategy Final Report

( 01795 417850

November 2007


Swale Borough Council

Much of Swale’s natural environment is of outstanding quality and must be protected. However, this quality is not distributed evenly across the Borough, and access to services and amenities is also relatively poor. Future investment will focus on improving the quality of and access to open space, enhancing the Borough’s cultural infrastructure and ensuring that new developments are truly sustainable.1

T

he Borough of Swale is situated on the North Kent Coast between the Medway Towns and Canterbury and is a diverse area comprising four areas, Faversham, the Isle of Sheppey, Sittingbourne and the rural hinterland. Swale has spectacular natural assets, ranging from the unique coastal marshlands to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is also scattered with attractive towns and villages. The quality of these environments is a major asset to the area, not only to the quality of life for people that live and work locally but also to future prosperity, impacting upon the area’s ability to attract visitors and investment. The Council has an important role in safeguarding and enhancing our natural and built environments. We will integrate this into our regeneration programme, enhancing what we have and creating new high quality places, in which people will want to live, work and spend leisure time.2

Natural England Natural England works for people, places and nature, to enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas; promote access, recreation and public well-being; and contribute to the way natural resources are managed so that they can be enjoyed now and in the future. Natural England supports Swale’s Green Grid strategy and the role that the Swale Green Grid Steering Group has played in promoting green infrastructure throughout the Kent Thames Gateway. The Swale Green Grid strategy has a direct relevance to our four strategic outcomes, which together helps deliver on our purpose to conserve, enhance and manage the natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

Swale Forward is the Local Regeneration Partnership for Swale.

Swale Forward’s vision is: “To achieve a transformation in Swale’s economic, social and environmental profile, so that it is one of the best places in Britain in which to live, work, learn and invest.” This vision is broad and ambitious. However, Swale has a number of opportunities that will enable it to move towards achieving the vision including the quality of Swale’s natural environment. Swale performs well in respect of many environmental indicators, and indeed, part of Swale’s attractiveness as a place in which to live, work and invest is the high quality of its natural environment.

A healthy natural environment: Delivered through a network of high quality, multifunctional green spaces.

Enjoyment of the natural environment: More people will be able to access, enjoy, understand and act to improve, the natural environment.

Sustainable use of the natural environment: The potential use and management of multifunctional green spaces/ landscapes that benefits all.

A secure environmental future: The landscape and green space networks are to be regarded as the functional green infrastructure which is needed to create a positive sense of place, providing environmental protection for local communities and enhancing the quality of life of those who live and work in the Thames Gateway.

The Swale Green Grid Partnership comprises representatives of the following organisations:

Annex C - February 2007 Green Grid stakeholder workshop Swale Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop

A key objective of the Swale workshop was to establish Green Grid priorities which will operate in accordance with Swale’s Regeneration Framework (2006-2016). Many of the projects discussed were on the Isle of Sheppey, where ongoing regeneration projects at Sheerness, Queenborough & Rushenden and Leysdown, and the EcoTourism project planned for the south of the island, are providing a surge of opportunities for positive environmental and social change. This is also the case in Sittingbourne, where Green Grid projects are being delivered as part of the Sittingbourne Central Area Framework and proposed as part of a range of potential new development sites on the fringes of the town, including the Kent Science Park extension, Fulston Manor Link, and the Kemsley and Eurolink employment sites.

February 2007

T

he Swale Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop was one of three workshops held in Kent Thameside, Medway and Swale. The workshops were designed to update local stakeholders on progress with the Green Grid in each of the Green Grid areas and to encourage them to contribute their own ideas and project opportunities. The introductory session at each workshop included talks relevant to each Green Grid area, as well as an overview (by Natural England) of the potential benefits of the Green Grid within the wider Thames Gateway growth area.

Stakeholders called for Green Grid projects to focus on the distinctive character of Swale’s landscape, with particular emphasis on improving access to Swale’s long, intricate shoreline and its grazing marshes, creeks and rivers. One idea was for a round Sheppey ferry service which calls in at the sequence of creeks along the Swale. Milton Creek at Sittingbourne is the subject of one of the Green Grid proposals which would extend the Church Marshes Country Park, reconnecting the town with its estuarine setting. By contrast, the Green Grid proposal for Faversham Creek has a heritage focus, perhaps with the potential to bring historic barges into the town centre.

Workshop participants were asked to come to the workshops with ideas for potential Green Grid projects or themes – these might be ongoing projects within their own organisations, potential projects which might be planned to meet their current targets or just ideas and themes for joint discussion. They were divided into break-out groups and asked to record their ideas on post-it notes, to think about how they might prioritise existing and potential projects and to map their thoughts. Each break-out group was provided with a large scale base map of the Green Grid area, a set of five GIS maps showing different aspects of the environmental resource, a set of large scale conceptual vision maps (the result of a Green Grid visioning workshop in November 2006) and a rights of way map showing some potential long distance footpath and cycle routes.

A range of existing Green Grid projects along the fringes of the downs focus on ancient woodlands at Perry Wood, the Blean, Highsted and Cromer’s Wood and there is an extension to the chalkland nature reserve at Queendown Warren. Stakeholders suggested that there might be a series of linked Green Grid projects centred on Swale’s chalkland valleys, with footpath/cycleway links, conservation initiatives, woodland management and possibly heritage orchard restoration projects.

At the end of the break-out session, tracing overlays of sketch ideas were pinned up over base maps on the wall and the facilitators for each group summarised the group discussions. The workshop facilitators recorded the discussion, listing all the potential projects and themes mentioned.

Overall Swale’s Green Grid portfolio has a strong biodiversity element, reflecting the exceptional scale of Swale’s estuarine grazing marshes and intertidal habitats. Estuarine habitat conservation and restoration initiatives are planned at the Elmley National Nature Reserve and Capel Fleet on Sheppey and at Oare Marshes, Seasalter Leisure Plots and Murston Lakes on the south bank of the Swale.

The discussion provided a wealth of information, with stakeholders commenting on existing Green Grid projects and presenting a range of new ideas for consideration. The facilitators followed up the workshop with telephone calls to many of the participants to clarify the points they had made and obtain accurate mapped information about sites and the potential location of projects.

Swale Borough Council, Swale Forward, Natural England, Greening the Gateway Kent and Medway, Kent County Council, Groundwork Kent and Medway, Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit (AONB), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Kent Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and the Private Sector Liaison Group (PSLG) 1 2

Swale Forward, Regeneration Framework 2006-2016 Swale Borough Council, Corporate Plan 2007-2011 - Shaping the Future

2

31


Swale Corporate Plan Priorities

Green Grid benefits

Contents

Recreation - The Green Grid will improve access to meet the needs of a large number of people, identify opportunities for open space and creating access within existing and new developments to ensure a coherent and integrated approach to open space and access provision. It will also provide improvements in both the quality and quantity of facilities for formal and informal recreation. This is has been identified as the highest cultural priority by residents of the Borough.

Promoting a safer & stronger community

Community engagement - In addition to preserving and celebrating local heritage and culture, the Green Grid will have a direct practical, cultural and social role. Accessible green spaces in close proximity to where people live will provide opportunities for social interaction, cultural events and other non-recreation activities such as volunteering, environmental education, art festivals and outdoor performance. Opportunities for community involvement will provide a common interest and promote social engagement. Involvement will also create a sense of local achievement and pride of place which can do much to raise community aspirations and will, over the longer term, help to ensure successful ownership and protect investment in the landscape.

Healthy lifestyles - preventative health care is increasingly highlighted as a principal benefit of adopting a bold approach to greenspace planning and implementation. Contact with greenspace can reduce stress and contribute to health and a sense of well being. Involvement in greenspace can benefit people with sensory and other disabilities. An integrated, accessible and diverse greenspace also promotes and provides opportunities and facilities for more active exercise whether through formal sport, organised activities or informal recreation.

Education - the local landscape is a valuable learning asset at all levels providing a wealth of cultural, social, historical, natural heritage and environmental resources. The Green Grid will help to identify and protect these resources and, through interpretation and in partnership with interest groups, increase access and local appreciation. The Green Grid will also provide practical training opportunities (for instance in horticulture, countryside management, interpretation and construction, helping to address the increasing shortage of people without practical environmental management skills.

Becoming a high performing organisation

Partnership working - Sustainable principles are being promoted and supported in relation to new developments, in agriculture, across business and in daily lives. Mechanisms, partnerships and the knowledge to deliver landscape and access enhancements exist within the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Green Grid Strategy can ensure that this effort is co-ordinated towards a common plan, by providing access to advice and support, promoting best practice and identifying deficiencies in the network and delivery process.

1 Green Grid Framework

1.1

Context

6

1.2

Why a Green Grid?

7

1.3

How does it add value?

7

1.4

What will it deliver?

7

1.5

The case for investment

8

1.6

Delivering strategic priorities

8

1.7

Case Studies

9 & 10

2 Green Grid Components

2.1

Swale’s environmental resource

11

2.2

Green Grid opportunities

12

3 Swale’s Green Grid Vision

3.1

Green Grid structure

14

3.2

Swale Green Grid Strategic Framework

14

Swale’s Green Grid Delivery Plan is available as a separate document containing Green Grid project schedules cross referenced to a GIS map of all the Green Grid projects. It is regularly updated

Map 1 - Kent landscape character areas

16

Map 2 - Landscape & biodiversity importance

18

Map 3 - Ecological network model

20

Map 4 - Accesibility

22

Map 5 - Strategic Green Grid Framework

24

Annexes

A

Strategic policy context

26

B

Links to Swale’s Corporate Plan

29

C

February 2007 Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop

31

30

Page No.

3


1

Green Grid Framework

1.1

Context

This Green Grid Strategy explains what the Green Grid is, why it will make a difference and how it can take forward and help to deliver the national agenda for the Thames Gateway Parklands, Greening the Gateway Kent and Medway, the regional regeneration priorities for Swale and the Vision for Swale at the heart of the Council’s Corporate Plan.

S

wale’s stunning and distinctive environment is the Borough’s greatest asset. It includes an outstanding range of internationally and nationally important landscapes, focusing on the extensive grazing marshes, mudflats and saltmarshes of the Swale estuary, but also including wetlands, chalk downland and ancient woodland. Swale’s outstanding natural environment is complemented by its rich cultural heritage.

A separate Delivery Plan sets out an action plan for delivering the Swale Green Grid, with GIS mapping referenced to schedules of projects and initiatives.

____________________ Eco-Tourism case study (see end of Section 1)

Highlights are the historic dockyard at Sheerness, the defence moat of Queenborough Lines, Sittingbourne’s diverse industrial base, which includes barge building, brick-making and paper mills, cherry orchards within the rural ‘fruit belt’ and the historic creekside market town of Faversham. Hop growing has fuelled the local brewing industry and where boats and fine historic buildings are juxtaposed at the heart of the town.

Regional Policy – Thames Gateway Growth Area Policy document Making it happen; Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas, ODPM, 2003 Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway – a greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway, ODPM, 2004

Relevance

Following on from the national policy document, Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future, Making it happen; Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas, sets out the value of a greenspace strategy for the Gateway which provides a framework in which to promote liveability and a good quality of life. This strategy, Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway, establishes principles relevant to the whole of the Borough which have been incorporated into the Swale Green Grid Strategy.

Relevant policies are:

Draft South East Regional Plan, May 2006

Many of these superb landscapes are accessible to the public and Swale’s forthcoming Open Space Strategy will set out the Borough’s vision for its open spaces. It will establish a framework for future investment which balances the need to protect Swale’s natural environment with the need to improve the quality and distribution of public open spaces and facilities for sport and recreation.

Regional Economic Strategy for the South East, South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), 2006-2016

The Isle of Sheppey and Sittingbourne are part of the Thames Gateway regeneration area. Swale is the focus for significant investment via a range of infrastructure, employment, housing, environment and community initiatives. With new investment comes high expectations and Swale must demonstrate best practice in delivering sustainable development on the ground.

T2 – rural transport (provision for cyclists and pedestrians) NRM2 – conservation and improvement of biodiversity (vi) maintaining & establishing accessible green networks and open greenspace in urban areas C4 – countryside access and rights of way management TSR2 – rural tourism S3 – supporting healthy communities (through access to parks and greenspaces and promoting footpaths and cycleways) This overarching policy document (which is regularly updated) sets the agenda for SEEDA, defining the region’s priorities and targets. There is an emphasis on sustainable development and the link between well designed, quality green infrastructure and economic development. Included in the Strategy’s targets for ‘sustainable prosperity’ are ‘measurable’ improvements in biodiversity and green infrastructure. The sustainability checklist (www.sustainability-checklist.co.uk) provides a useful toolkit for practitioners, which is of direct relevance to the delivery of the Green Grid. The Kent Environment Strategy has been developed to present the environmental issues affecting the whole County and establish a collective and integrated response. The Swale Green Grid provides an effective response to the wide range of environmental issues and will make a significant contribution to agreed environmental objectives and particular the objectives set out under the themes: • On your doorstep

Kent County Council Environment Strategy, 2003

A focused and visionary environmental agenda will be central to successful regeneration. High quality, distinct urban and rural landscapes, accessible diverse open spaces and contact with wildlife are increasingly recognised as key components of sustainable communities, contributing to people’s quality of life and supporting economic and social programmes.

• Nature matters • A sense of history • Sustainable settlements • Travel wise Since the publication of the Kent Environment Strategy, there have been a number of progress reports and the 2007 Progress Report highlights continuing pressure on natural resources and the particular challenge of water management and climate change. The Swale Green Grid can contribute to the delivery of the targets set out in this report and might also provide valuable statistics for monitoring environmental change.

While a planning constraints approach can continue to conserve important green spaces, it will not be adequate to achieve these multifaceted goals. Instead there is a need to take a positive, proactive and holistic approach to delivering a sustainable and diverse landscape framework for Swale’s communities.

6

The Kent & Medway Structure Plan, adopted July 6 2006

The Kent & Medway Structure Plan, jointly produced by Kent County Council and Medway Council, sets out the strategic planning framework for the protection of the environment, major transport priorities, and the scale, pattern and broad location of new development including provision for new housing and major economic development across Kent and Medway. The Swale Green Grid is consistent with the proposed policies and particularly ‘Policies for Protecting our Natural Environment’, ‘Promoting Quality of Life in Town and Country’ (especially Policy QL 17 – greenspace networks and rights of way) and Policy TP11: Facilities for Pedestrians and Cyclists.

Kent Rights of Way Improvement Plan, Draft 2007, Kent County Council

The Rights of Way Improvements Plan (RWIP) sets out a 10 year strategy for improving access to the countryside based on local and national research. It aims to increase the usage and enjoyment of public rights of way and open green spaces in Kent. The Swale Green Grid Strategy offers an opportunity to coordinate delivery of improved public access to the countryside, responding to the specific issues raised in the RWIP

27


Annex A - National Policy

1.2

Policy document

Relevance

G

Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future, ODPM, 2004

The government’s sustainable communities policy sets out the challenge of creating clean, safe, attractive environments in which communities can take pride.

Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener, ODPM, 2002 Greenspaces, Better Places, Urban Greenspace Taskforce, 2005

Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener emphasises the wide ranging and multiple benefits of greenspace and the importance of taking a holistic approach. It outlines the government’s commitment to the creation of accessible networks of high quality parks and diverse green space in towns and cities. The Green Grid concept addresses the four challenges identified, which include accounting for the wide range of owners, tenants and users of greenspaces, combating creeping degradation, improving the quality of greenspace for everyone and responding rapidly to changing circumstances. Greenspaces, Better Places highlights the benefits of urban parks and greenspaces. It places particular emphasis on the contribution greenspaces can make to urban regeneration, health, social cohesion and community development, education, heritage and culture.

PPG 17 - Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation, 2002 requires local authorities to undertake an assessment of their existing and current open space needs. This open space audit is part of Swale’s Open Space Strategy and informs decisions on the distribution and function of open space. It also highlights areas of open space deficiency, taking account of Natural England’s national targets for access to natural green space.

Planning Policy Guidance & Planning Policy Statements

PPS 7 – Sustainable Development in Rural Areas, 2005 aims to improve the quality and sustainability of local environments and neighbourhoods, while continuing to protect valued landscapes and natural resources. The implementation of Swale’s Green Grid Strategy will further the same aims. PPS 9 – Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, 2004 is an extension of the Government’s biodiversity strategy, Working with the Grain of Nature: a Biodiversity Strategy for England, 2002. PPS 9 sets out the way in which the Government’s policies for the conservation of biological and geological diversity should be reflected in land use planning. Swale’s Green Grid offers a key tool for the delivery of biodiversity in line with Kent’s Living Landscapes ecological network model and in a manner which is sensitive to the inherent character of Swale.

The countryside in and around towns: A vision for connecting town and country in pursuit of sustainable development, The Countryside Agency & Groundwork, 2005

This document sets out ten key functions for the countryside in and around towns and explains how these can contribute to a high quality of life for all. The aim is to plan and design urban fringe land uses so that they form a ‘bridge’ to the countryside and a gateway to the town, as well as improving health, providing a setting for environmental education and a focus for recycling and renewable energy. Other functions include the role of the countryside as a productive landscape, a cultural legacy, a place for sustainable living, an engine for regeneration and a nature reserve. This vision of a multi-functional landscape has informed the development of the Green Grid concept and will be delivered through Swale’s Green Grid Strategy.

Biodiversity by design: a guide for sustainable communities, Town & Country Planning Association, 2004.

This document provides guidance on how to maximise the opportunities for biodiversity in the planning and design of sustainable communities. It considers core principles that relate to biodiversity planning, examines methods for site analysis and the design and management of green infrastructure projects and offers case studies from national and international projects which demonstrate approaches which may have the potential for replication in the UK.

26

Why a Green Grid?

The detail of the Green Grid will vary from community to community but the overarching, sustainable principles will remain the same providing a clear and workable framework for every agency, organisation and individual involved in the future management of the environment of Swale.

reen Grid is a strategic, joined up approach to land management. It focuses on the relationship between green spaces and the communities they serve and aims to maximise the potential multi-functional benefits of a well designed public realm.

1.4

The Green Grid aims to create a network of multifunctional green spaces providing sustainable access within urban centres and development zones, and beyond the development areas in the urban fringe and rural areas of influence.

1.3

The Green Grid will:

How does it add value?

The Green Grid approach offers a strategic vision, which inspires confidence in private and public sectors alike. By planning, designing and managing green spaces as an interconnected network, rather than as isolated sites, Green Grid can add value to existing projects, justify prioritisation decisions and provide a carefully phased and tailored investment. It is a design-led approach which requires coordination of a wide range of stakeholder interests and engagement with local communities. The role of this Green Grid Strategy is to promote, guide and co-ordinate investment in Swale’s Green Grid. The associated Delivery Plan is the key tool for Green Grid project planning, management and implementation. It provides: •

contact details for key stakeholders involved in the delivery of Swale’s Green Grid;

information on leadership and accountability; and...

a database of Green Grid projects cross referenced to a GIS map showing information about each project, its governance, location, budget and timetable.

What will it deliver?

7

create more accessible greenspace & wildlife areas along an integrated network of safe, attractive pedestrian and cycle routes;

manage key resources by designing greenspace areas so that they also function as water retention areas for flood alleviation and new developments in accordance with the principles of sustainable drainage;

reduce pollution by increasing vegetation cover (which absorbs noxious gases and improves local micro-climatic conditions) and by encouraging walking and cycling to reduce dependency on the car;

promote health and well being by encouraging active exercise and opportunities for contact with nature;

promote sustainable transport, by providing a permeable and logical network of routes between key destinations and open spaces to encourage walking and cycling and by ensuring that public transport routes are incorporated into the wider network;

improve the aesthetic qualities of Swale’s outstanding landscape, providing a strong landscape infrastructure which reinforces local character;

enhance recreation & amenity, with more opportunities for high quality formal & informal recreation;

encourage active communities with a strong community spirit which will advocate ongoing investment in their local landscape;

enhance education, training and life-long learning, using the local landscape as a learning asset which provides a wealth of cultural, social historical and natural heritage;

attract economic investment through creating attractive settings and high quality, accessible green open spaces for new development, as well as direct opportunities for employment;

enhance local cultural heritage by managing the cultural heritage resource and using it to help develop a sense of place and sense of identity; __________________ Green Cluster Studies (see end of Section 1)


strengthen and make connections between new and existing communities and their local environment, by building on Swale’s distinctive environment, the Green Grid will inspire people to be proud of where they live, work and to enjoy being active and having more contact with nature;

enhance biodiversity by linking, extending and creating habitats, by promoting sustainable landscape management practices in all greenspace areas and by raising awareness of biodiversity issues amongst local residents and visitors;

produce & promote local food through local food markets and direct marketing initiatives.

1.5

The table in Annex A – Swale Green Grid Policy Context describes how Swale’s Green Grid Strategy fits within the overall policy context and demonstrates how the Green Grid concept contributes to key policy objectives. Key points are summarised below.

1.6.1

The case for investment

At a national scale, Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future sets out the government’s proposed locations for major growth.

T

here is an obvious and direct connection between investment in green infrastructure and enhanced land values. Recent surveys1 demonstrate that properties close to existing green spaces have higher values and offer commercial benefits in creating an environment that is attractive to buyers. The CABE report also suggests that The cumulative influence of a network of parks and greenspaces has the potential to achieve wider value uplift.

1.6.2

..the emergence of a continuous linked network of varied landscapes, both within and between built up areas. This greenspace network will range from the formal parks and gardens of the inner city to the wild coastal marshes and it will incorporate both public open space and privately owned land. It needs to be attractive and accessible, to reflect local character and to deliver wide ranging environmental benefits such as shelter, pollution filtration and flood protection.

_______________________ Church Marshes case study (see end of Section 1)

Delivering strategic priorities

The Swale Green Grid offers the potential to deliver strategic priorities at national, regional and local scale.

1 2 3 4

Thames Gateway priorities

The largest of these national growth areas is the Thames Gateway and, at a regional level, the concept of the Green Grid has been articulated and promoted through the publication of Greening the Gateway – a greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway,4 which called for

Swale ranks ahead of the other Kent Thames Gateway boroughs in an aggregate measure of the quality of its natural environment2 and Swale Forward, the Local Regeneration Partnership, is seeking to capitalize on this potential.3 Swale’s Green Grid is seen as a key component in the regeneration of the region, providing opportunities to link new and existing communities with Swale’s distinctive natural environment via a sustainable network of green spaces.

1.6

National priorities

A series of key government documents have established a policy context which places strong emphasis on the value of green infrastructure in delivering improved quality of life and contributing to economic regeneration. More recently there has been an emphasis on responding to climate change.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, July 2007, Urban parks, open space & residential property values and CABE, March 2005, Does money grow on trees? Swale Forward, 2004, Swale: State of the Borough Report Swale Forward, Interim Regeneration Framework, 2005-6 ODPM, 2004, Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway – a greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway, HMSO Swale Forward, Interim Regeneration Framework, 2005-6 ODPM, 2004, Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway – a greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway, HMSO

8


Map 5 - Swale Green Grid Strategy: Strategic Green Grid Framework This vision is being taken forward and delivered through the Thames Gateway Parklands (which operates across the Thames Gateway as a whole) and the Greening the Gateway Kent & Medway initiative (which coordinates partnership organisations across north Kent)5.

1. 2. 3. 4.

Through their partnerships, these organisations are working to engage the community, business, developers and the voluntary sector in the identification and development of Green infrastructure projects and seek wide ranging participation in project funding and delivery. This approach will establish and embed Green Grid principles, ensuring that the Grid is delivered as an integral part of everyday activity.

This plan is the key policy document for the delivery of Swale’s Green Grid as it provides the framework to guide the Council’s allocation of resources.

1.6.3

Swale’s Green Grid will help to deliver all four of the Corporate Plan’s priorities, but there is an obvious and direct connection between delivery of Green Grid benefits (see Section 1.4) and the delivery of the Corporate Plan’s second priority – Creating a greener and cleaner Swale.

Swale Borough Council priorities

Annex A sets out a summary of the links between the priorities from Swale’s Corporate Plan and the benefits which will be delivered through its Green Grid Strategy.

I

n Swale, the Green Grid Strategy will contribute to the delivery of the Borough Council’s Vision for Swale via the four interrelated priorities set out in the Corporate Plan.6

1.7

Regenerating Swale Creating a greener and cleaner Swale Promoting a safer and stronger community Becoming a high performing organisation

________________________ Oare Gunpowder Works Case Study (see end of Section 1)

Case Studies

Eco-tourism, Isle of Sheppey

R

ecent studies have highlighted the potential of promoting the Isle of Sheppey as a centre for eco-tourism, with Elmley Marshes as a catalyst for eco-tourism initiatives and scope to genereate linked opportunities island-wide. The eco-tourism offer includes:

24

creating a ‘wow’ factor at Elmley through the development of an enhanced gateway,

eco-lodge accommodation and complementary activities

a discreet and flexible visitor centre

improved signage

potential for a viable eco-lodge business

a guided safari business, dependent on the development of the eco-lodges,

which can be developed over a period of time

a walking experience at Spit End

walking, cycling and other leisure pursuits at Kingsferry Lakes as part of the extended gateway

cycling and walking routes located outside the protected reserve

boat trips to places of interest (seal watching)

5 6

The Greening the Gateway Kent & Medway steering group includes representatives from Kent Thameside Green Grid , Medway Unitary Authority, Swale Borough Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency. Swale Borough Council, 2007, Shaping the Future of Swale – Swale Borough Council Corporate Plan 2007-2011

9


Green Cluster Studies – Faversham Creek & Milton Creek

G

reening the Gateway Kent and Medway is working with partners across north Kent to realise and promote opportunities for investment in green spaces. The Green Cluster Studies are being used to guide funding opportunities across north Kent. They stem from a series of Green Grid stakeholder workshops held in Kent Thameside, Medway and Swale in 2007. A key outcome was the identification of specific clusters or groupings of planned and aspirational green space projects across north Kent. The clusters reflect locations where there is a relatively high degree of regeneration activity and therefore opportunity for investment. The aim is to:

support the creation of a coherent sense of place for each cluster area

capture what is already happening

identify stakeholder aspirations and update existing studies

identify inter-dependencies, gaps and opportunities

articulate a common vision for each cluster area

develop an outline action plan which sets out projects costs and phasing

prepare design briefs, concept designs and outline costs for a selection of ‘gap’ projects which add value to existing activities and projects within each cluster.

Ultimately the aim is to use the cluster studies to increase confidence, make the case for investment and provide a lever to bid for further funding. In Swale the clusters are Faversham Creek and Milton Creek. The Green Cluster studies illustrate a holistic vision for how the Green Grid can add value and deliver high quality green infrastructure where it is likely to be most effective.

Church Marshes Country Park

C

hurch Marshes Country Park is on the west bank of Milton Creek in Sittingbourne. It is a 52 ha community park which is being developed in consultation with local communities and as funding becomes available. The ongoing restoration of this brownfield site is creating large expanses of meadow, grassland, scrub, ponds and reed beds on land which has been used initially as brick fields and latterly for landfill activities. Church Marshes Country Park is a strategic site within Swale’s Green Grid. It is adjacent to the Saxon Shore Way and will be a key focus within the future Milton Creek regeneration area. With the redevelopment of Sittingbourne town centre (and Sittingbourne station as a new gateway hub) and the development of the Northern Relief Road, the area at the head of Milton Creek is set to become a new waterfront district. Milton Creek itself will become a new greenspace and recreational focus, reconnecting Sittingbourne with its waterfront heritage and with its striking marshland setting.

Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park

T

he Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park is the site of a 17th century gunpowder factory. It includes the remains of the key structures in which gunpowder was manufactured, tested, packed and stored, as well as the network of canals or ‘leats’ used to transport people and materials around the site. Extensive areas of woodland on farmland surrounding the site were planted to form blast screens to reduce the potentially damaging impacts of explosions. The gunpowder factory closed in 1934 and the structures fell into ruin as nature colonised the site. A major conservation project was undertaken during 2004 to preserve the remaining structures and facilitate access to all parts of the site. A visitor centre has been provided in the converted Cooperage, providing information on the gunpowder works and its history. A range of valuable habitats are managed and improved to maximise their biodiversity value. For instance, the majority of the woodlands are coppiced to encourage the development of a species rich ‘ground layer’ and areas of reedbed, marsh and aquatic fringe vegetation enhance the wetland habitat value of the ponds. The Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park is a fascinating heritage site with excellent interpretation.

10


Map 4 - Swale Green Grid Strategy: Accessibility 2

Green Grid Components

2.1

Swale environmental resource

2.1.1

Landscape character

Assessment of landscape character is particularly pertinent for Green Grid projects because it describes how a landscape is perceived. It highlights aspects of landscape character such as scale, texture, colour, form, enclosure and complexity which suggest how different landscapes feel and how new interventions can be designed to enhance aspects of landscape character which are valued by local people.

T

he Swale Landscape Character Assessment7 describes how the character of Swale’s landscape has been shaped by the interaction of the natural environment and human activities. The character assessment incorporates a sequence of maps which illustrate the geology of Swale, patterns of landform, drainage and biodiversity. It also describes historical influences on landscape character but further more detailed information on historical landscape character is available online via the Kent Historic Landscape Characterisation Project.8

The idea is to encourage positive landscape change and avoid a standardised approach: every new building, road, wall and stile should be designed with local landscape character in mind so that new developments (at every scale) are harmonious with their setting and make a positive contribution to local diversity and distinctiveness.

2.1.2

Landscape significance – Statutory designations

Swale’s landscape character assessment sets out the hierarchy of landscape character areas for Swale – from the three regional joint character areas9 to the 10 landscape character areas defined at country10 level by Kent County and a detailed subdivision into 42 local landscape character areas.

The character and quality of Swale’s landscape is reflected by the many designations that protect large parts of it. Map 3 shows the key landscape and biodiversity designations, all of which demonstrate the international and national importance of Swale’s landscapes. These include:

Map 1 summarises the county level landscape character areas, which highlight local variations – for instance, areas where orchards are predominant, or where fields have an irregular pattern or where the farmland has a more open, sweeping scale.

the international importance of the North Kent Marshes Ramsar Site.

the Special Protection Areas of Blean Woods, the North Downs and North Kent Marshes

National Nature Reserves at Elmley Marshes and Swale

Special Areas of Conservation at Queendown Warren and the Blean woodland complex

the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Ken t

Dow

ns

AO N

B

The landscape character assessment provides an objective guide to making places which reinforce and enhance local distinctiveness. It does this by describing the inherent diversity of the landscape and by drawing attention to the specific patterns of landform, land cover, land use and settlement which make one place different to another.

Map 1 - Kent Landscape Character areas (See Page 16)

7 8 9 10

22

Swale Borough Council, March 2005, Swale Landscape Character Assessment & Guidelines (Jacobs Babtie) Kent County Council & English Heritage, 2001, Kent Historic Landscape Characterisation, (Oxford Archaeological Unit) Countryside Commission & English Nature, 1987, The Character of England – landscape, wildlife & natural features Kent County Council, October 2004, Landscape Assessment of Kent

11


M

ap 3 also shows the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the Local Wildlife Sites (formerly known as Sites of Nature Conservation importance). The map immediately highlights the immense value of Swale’s landscapes in a national and pan European context. It also demonstrates the strong contrasts in character between two types of landscape which are attractive and highly valued – the wild, expansive north Kent marshes and the chalklands of the Kent Downs AONB. Map 3 - Ecological Network model (See Page 20)

The ecological network model for Kent identifies:

Map 2 - Landscape & Biodiversity Importance (See Page 18)

2.1.3

Ecological network mapping

The argument for creating inter-connected ecological networks and large habitat areas is based on the fact that: small, isolated areas of habitat are likely to hold proportionately fewer species than larger areas, and the populations of these species are likely to be more vulnerable to local extinction;

functional connectivity between areas of wildlife habitat is likely to make it easier for populations of species to shift in response to climate change;

the small and isolated nature of most areas of wildlife habitat in the UK poses a significant risk to biodiversity, particularly in the face of likely climate change.

11 12

existing habitat patches, with priority given to BAP habitats, the largest blocks and then those closest to them;

locations where new habitats of the same type might most appropriately be restored or re- created within a threshold distance of an existing habitat patch (using the habitat opportunity mapping developed as part of the Kent Lifescapes Study).

Drawing on the ecological network model for Kent, the core biodiversity challenges for the Swale Green Grid are to:

Kent Wildlife Trust has developed an exemplary ecological network mapping project – A Living Landscape for the South-East.11 The Kent component of this detailed GIS mapping project demonstrates how a co-ordinated approach to habitat restoration, enhancement and re-creation might function at a strategic scale. The model is based on high quality habitat data and seeks to inform strategic planning and land use management decisions.12

create larger habitat blocks by linking existing habitat patches, giving priority to BAP species, designated and protected sites and ancient woodland;

create physical connections between habitat patches, either in the form of a series of ‘stepping stone’ patches of habitat or as linear ‘corridors’; and

focus efforts to improve the wildlife value of farmland or areas of built development surrounding the blocks and corridors of important habitats highlighted on the ecological model.

2.2 2.2.1

Green Grid Opportunities

Public rights of way

Green Grid projects will extend and enhance the existing network of public rights of way, linking urban areas with the surrounding countryside, and neighbourhoods with local destinations, such as schools, workplaces, parks and other managed greenspaces. Map 5 summarises the existing network of public rights of way, highlighting promoted footpaths, such as the Saxon Shore Way and cycle routes, including National Cycle Route 1. It also shows principal destinations public parks, recreation facilities, community woodlands and nature reserves.

Kent Wildlife Trust, on behalf of the Wildlife Trusts in the SE, 2006, A Living Landscape for the South-East- the ecological network approach to rebuilding biodiversity for the 21st century A detailed explanation of the method used to create the ecological network model for Kent is provided in Moyse, Richard & Rowsell, Ed, 2007, A Model for an ecological framework for Kent & Medway.

12


Map 3 - Swale Green Grid Strategy: Ecological Network Model 2.2.3

Projects with Green Grid potential

T

he Green Grid Strategy aims to add value to ongoing environmental projects and initiatives by identifying gaps and opportunities for connections, additions and new linked projects. So it will be guided by a range of existing projects and investment opportunities which have the potential to deliver Green Grid benefits. A Swale Green Grid stakeholder workshop was held in February 2007 to update stakeholders on progress with existing Green Grid projects in Swale and to seek views, ideas and potential Green Grid project opportunities. The maps and project schedules from the February 2007 workshop are presented in Annex B.

Map 4 - Accessibility (See Page 22)

2.2.2

Swale’s regeneration priorities

Not all of Swale’s Green Grid projects have a specific site – many are thematic initiatives such as marketing schemes for local food, promoting health walks or environmental education schemes.

Parts of Swale, particularly urban areas, experience dereliction and poor environmental quality. Examples are Milton Creek, Queenborough & Rushenden, Sheerness and Blue Town. Swale Forward’s Regeneration Framework13 identifies regeneration opportunities for investment at:

20

Queenborough & Rushenden – masterplan proposes new residential, employment, tourism, recreation, open space and community development, as well as the delivery of the Rushenden Link Road.

Sittingbourne - town centre public realm improvements, gateway features, greater Milton creek development, Kent Science Park and strategic transport infrastructure.

Sheerness – Public realm improvements, improved links between the town centre, the sea and the historic dockyard, gateway features, public art etc to substantially improve the environment for residents, visitors and investors.

Faversham - town centre public realm improvements, Faversham Creek development and community development. Improvements will be consistent with the town’s architectural and historical heritage.

Targeted urban intervention public realm improvements in other urban locations where they can be linked with delivery of new housing, to combat deprivation or facilitate economic development. Investment in regeneration provides opportunities to develop and deliver Green Grid projects so there are strong links between Swale Forward’s priorities for regeneration Swale’s Green Grid Strategy.

13 14 15

Swale Forward, 2006, Regeneration Framework 2006-2016 Swale Borough Council, February 2007, Swale Green Grid Workshop (Sheils Flynn) Swale Borough Council, 2004, The Swale Green Grid, (The Architecture Centre)

The report from this workshop14 together with the first Swale Green Grid Strategy15 and the interim from the Open Space Strategy provided a baseline for developing this Green Grid Strategy.

13


3 3.1

Green Grid Vision

Green Grid Structure

T

he spatial structure of Swale’s network of Green Grid projects and opportunities can be understood in terms of six components: 1.

Greenspaces – the hierarchy of greenspace resources includes managed open spaces, nature reserves, urban squares, streets, allotments, cemeteries, derelict land and private gardens. They provide recreational, social, cultural, wildlife and community benefits.

2.

Corridors – a network of routes including: rivers, estuaries & creeks – water has shaped Swale’s cultural and physical development and the ‘blue’ component of the Grid is central to the borough’s distinctive identity. Swale’s waterfronts hold a natural fascination for people and ‘unlocking’ their potential (by enhancing waterfront access and the redevelopment of major river frontage sites) is a key objective of the Green Grid.

Habitat links – which connect habitats or features of high biodiversity value such as river floodplains, ancient woodlands and chalk grassland

Local connector - routes connecting settlements to the wider countryside, which might be enhanced through footpath/cycleway improvements, shared space schemes or street landscape improvements

Circular routes – often designed around subject or area-based (locally distinct) themes and incorporating interpretation eg Faversham circular walks and the proposed ‘Round Sheppey cycle route’.

Strategic long distance routes - including the Swale Heritage Trail, Saxon Shore Way and National Cycleway 1, Where enhanced landscaping will, additionally, contribute to quality of the route

Roads - in particular extending existing landscaping around the A2 and A249 to provide a multi functional landscape strip along their whole length

14

Railways - promoting conservation management along railways and seeking opportunities to create new landscape and wildlife features within and around the railway lands.

3.

Hubs – the town centres and principal rural settlements which are the ‘shop window’ of the Borough, providing an introduction to local heritage and culture, as well as opportunities for recreation, events, activities and social contact. Other green infrastructure ‘hubs’ are visitor attractions such as centres for field study, interpretation or heritage. At a smaller scale, Green Grid ‘hubs’ might also be points of interpretation or orientation at small car parks or viewing points. Some Green Grid projects may incorporate a hub, as one component of the overall project.

4.

Gateways - Gateways indicate transition and provide a sense of arrival. In the context of the Green Grid, the key gateways occur on the main approach routes to the Borough and to individual settlements. Approach routes are not limited to roads but include main routes from stations and other public transport nodes as well as pedestrian and cycle routes. All gateways should make a statement, reflecting the quality of the Grid and individual character of the surrounding area. Some Green Grid projects may incorporate a gateway, as one component of the overall project.

5.

Major development sites - Green Grid provides the opportunity and a rationale for greenspace within new developments and as part of targeted regeneration projects.

6.

Wider area initiatives – land management and habitat enhancement projects. In Swale there is a strong focus on the marshes, but land management projects are also concentrated on the chalk downs, areas of ancient woodland and heritage orchards. New projects may offer scope to enhance degraded areas, reinforcing local landscape character and ecological value. Changes in agricultural practice and the associated environmental grant structure will have a role to play.


Map 2 - Swale Green Grid Strategy: landscape & biodiversity importance 3.2

Strategic Green Grid Framework Plan

nationally important habitats and areas where there is potential for habitat creation and enhancement, taking account of the data from the ecological network model.

The Strategic Green Grid Framework Plan illustrates only the strategic Green Grid routes, which provide an overall framework for the network of smaller routes and public access and habitat enhancement projects which together make up the Green Grid. The existing strategic Green Grid routes are along the Swale estuary and marshes – the Saxon Shore Way, the Swale Heritage Trail and National Cycle Route One. A ‘round Sheppey’ cycle route is planned and the Strategic Green Grid Framework Plan illustrates the principal of connections between key settlements and the North Downs Way, with promoted strategic Green Grid routes and appropriate landscape or habitat enhancement projects within the chalk valleys which link the Downs to the Swale. The proposed routes are broadly aligned to link places of interest, villages and areas with potential for habitat enhancement.

Map 5 - Strategic Green Grid Framework (See Page 24)

3.2.1

‘Layers’ of key information

S

wale’s Strategic Green Grid Framework Plan is informed by combining key information from the landscape character, landscape significance, ecological network and accessibility maps. This is essentially a ‘sieve mapping’ process, which takes account of these key influences and highlights areas and connections which should be part of Swale’s strategic Green Grid network. It is also informed by the principal Green Grid projects suggested by stakeholders at the workshops in February 2007 (see Annex C).

3.2.2

Strategic Green Grid Framework Plan

The strategic Green Grid routes focus on the principal connections between: •

18

centres of population and the wider countryside , taking account of the location of railway stations, places of interest and opportunities to experience the different types of landscape in Swale

15


Annex A - National Policy

1.2

Policy document

Relevance

G

Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future, ODPM, 2004

The government’s sustainable communities policy sets out the challenge of creating clean, safe, attractive environments in which communities can take pride.

Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener, ODPM, 2002 Greenspaces, Better Places, Urban Greenspace Taskforce, 2005

Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener emphasises the wide ranging and multiple benefits of greenspace and the importance of taking a holistic approach. It outlines the government’s commitment to the creation of accessible networks of high quality parks and diverse green space in towns and cities. The Green Grid concept addresses the four challenges identified, which include accounting for the wide range of owners, tenants and users of greenspaces, combating creeping degradation, improving the quality of greenspace for everyone and responding rapidly to changing circumstances. Greenspaces, Better Places highlights the benefits of urban parks and greenspaces. It places particular emphasis on the contribution greenspaces can make to urban regeneration, health, social cohesion and community development, education, heritage and culture.

PPG 17 - Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation, 2002 requires local authorities to undertake an assessment of their existing and current open space needs. This open space audit is part of Swale’s Open Space Strategy and informs decisions on the distribution and function of open space. It also highlights areas of open space deficiency, taking account of Natural England’s national targets for access to natural green space.

Planning Policy Guidance & Planning Policy Statements

PPS 7 – Sustainable Development in Rural Areas, 2005 aims to improve the quality and sustainability of local environments and neighbourhoods, while continuing to protect valued landscapes and natural resources. The implementation of Swale’s Green Grid Strategy will further the same aims. PPS 9 – Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, 2004 is an extension of the Government’s biodiversity strategy, Working with the Grain of Nature: a Biodiversity Strategy for England, 2002. PPS 9 sets out the way in which the Government’s policies for the conservation of biological and geological diversity should be reflected in land use planning. Swale’s Green Grid offers a key tool for the delivery of biodiversity in line with Kent’s Living Landscapes ecological network model and in a manner which is sensitive to the inherent character of Swale.

The countryside in and around towns: A vision for connecting town and country in pursuit of sustainable development, The Countryside Agency & Groundwork, 2005

This document sets out ten key functions for the countryside in and around towns and explains how these can contribute to a high quality of life for all. The aim is to plan and design urban fringe land uses so that they form a ‘bridge’ to the countryside and a gateway to the town, as well as improving health, providing a setting for environmental education and a focus for recycling and renewable energy. Other functions include the role of the countryside as a productive landscape, a cultural legacy, a place for sustainable living, an engine for regeneration and a nature reserve. This vision of a multi-functional landscape has informed the development of the Green Grid concept and will be delivered through Swale’s Green Grid Strategy.

Biodiversity by design: a guide for sustainable communities, Town & Country Planning Association, 2004.

This document provides guidance on how to maximise the opportunities for biodiversity in the planning and design of sustainable communities. It considers core principles that relate to biodiversity planning, examines methods for site analysis and the design and management of green infrastructure projects and offers case studies from national and international projects which demonstrate approaches which may have the potential for replication in the UK.

26

Why a Green Grid?

The detail of the Green Grid will vary from community to community but the overarching, sustainable principles will remain the same providing a clear and workable framework for every agency, organisation and individual involved in the future management of the environment of Swale.

reen Grid is a strategic, joined up approach to land management. It focuses on the relationship between green spaces and the communities they serve and aims to maximise the potential multi-functional benefits of a well designed public realm.

1.4

The Green Grid aims to create a network of multifunctional green spaces providing sustainable access within urban centres and development zones, and beyond the development areas in the urban fringe and rural areas of influence.

1.3

The Green Grid will:

How does it add value?

The Green Grid approach offers a strategic vision, which inspires confidence in private and public sectors alike. By planning, designing and managing green spaces as an interconnected network, rather than as isolated sites, Green Grid can add value to existing projects, justify prioritisation decisions and provide a carefully phased and tailored investment. It is a design-led approach which requires coordination of a wide range of stakeholder interests and engagement with local communities. The role of this Green Grid Strategy is to promote, guide and co-ordinate investment in Swale’s Green Grid. The associated Delivery Plan is the key tool for Green Grid project planning, management and implementation. It provides: •

contact details for key stakeholders involved in the delivery of Swale’s Green Grid;

information on leadership and accountability; and...

a database of Green Grid projects cross referenced to a GIS map showing information about each project, its governance, location, budget and timetable.

What will it deliver?

7

create more accessible greenspace & wildlife areas along an integrated network of safe, attractive pedestrian and cycle routes;

manage key resources by designing greenspace areas so that they also function as water retention areas for flood alleviation and new developments in accordance with the principles of sustainable drainage;

reduce pollution by increasing vegetation cover (which absorbs noxious gases and improves local micro-climatic conditions) and by encouraging walking and cycling to reduce dependency on the car;

promote health and well being by encouraging active exercise and opportunities for contact with nature;

promote sustainable transport, by providing a permeable and logical network of routes between key destinations and open spaces to encourage walking and cycling and by ensuring that public transport routes are incorporated into the wider network;

improve the aesthetic qualities of Swale’s outstanding landscape, providing a strong landscape infrastructure which reinforces local character;

enhance recreation & amenity, with more opportunities for high quality formal & informal recreation;

encourage active communities with a strong community spirit which will advocate ongoing investment in their local landscape;

enhance education, training and life-long learning, using the local landscape as a learning asset which provides a wealth of cultural, social historical and natural heritage;

attract economic investment through creating attractive settings and high quality, accessible green open spaces for new development, as well as direct opportunities for employment;

enhance local cultural heritage by managing the cultural heritage resource and using it to help develop a sense of place and sense of identity; __________________ Green Cluster Studies (see end of Section 1)


1

Green Grid Framework

1.1

Context

This Green Grid Strategy explains what the Green Grid is, why it will make a difference and how it can take forward and help to deliver the national agenda for the Thames Gateway Parklands, Greening the Gateway Kent and Medway, the regional regeneration priorities for Swale and the Vision for Swale at the heart of the Council’s Corporate Plan.

S

wale’s stunning and distinctive environment is the Borough’s greatest asset. It includes an outstanding range of internationally and nationally important landscapes, focusing on the extensive grazing marshes, mudflats and saltmarshes of the Swale estuary, but also including wetlands, chalk downland and ancient woodland. Swale’s outstanding natural environment is complemented by its rich cultural heritage.

A separate Delivery Plan sets out an action plan for delivering the Swale Green Grid, with GIS mapping referenced to schedules of projects and initiatives.

____________________ Eco-Tourism case study (see end of Section 1)

Highlights are the historic dockyard at Sheerness, the defence moat of Queenborough Lines, Sittingbourne’s diverse industrial base, which includes barge building, brick-making and paper mills, cherry orchards within the rural ‘fruit belt’ and the historic creekside market town of Faversham. Hop growing has fuelled the local brewing industry and where boats and fine historic buildings are juxtaposed at the heart of the town.

Regional Policy – Thames Gateway Growth Area Policy document Making it happen; Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas, ODPM, 2003 Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway – a greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway, ODPM, 2004

Relevance

Following on from the national policy document, Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future, Making it happen; Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas, sets out the value of a greenspace strategy for the Gateway which provides a framework in which to promote liveability and a good quality of life. This strategy, Creating Sustainable Communities: Greening the Gateway, establishes principles relevant to the whole of the Borough which have been incorporated into the Swale Green Grid Strategy.

Relevant policies are:

Draft South East Regional Plan, May 2006

Many of these superb landscapes are accessible to the public and Swale’s forthcoming Open Space Strategy will set out the Borough’s vision for its open spaces. It will establish a framework for future investment which balances the need to protect Swale’s natural environment with the need to improve the quality and distribution of public open spaces and facilities for sport and recreation.

Regional Economic Strategy for the South East, South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), 2006-2016

The Isle of Sheppey and Sittingbourne are part of the Thames Gateway regeneration area. Swale is the focus for significant investment via a range of infrastructure, employment, housing, environment and community initiatives. With new investment comes high expectations and Swale must demonstrate best practice in delivering sustainable development on the ground.

T2 – rural transport (provision for cyclists and pedestrians) NRM2 – conservation and improvement of biodiversity (vi) maintaining & establishing accessible green networks and open greenspace in urban areas C4 – countryside access and rights of way management TSR2 – rural tourism S3 – supporting healthy communities (through access to parks and greenspaces and promoting footpaths and cycleways) This overarching policy document (which is regularly updated) sets the agenda for SEEDA, defining the region’s priorities and targets. There is an emphasis on sustainable development and the link between well designed, quality green infrastructure and economic development. Included in the Strategy’s targets for ‘sustainable prosperity’ are ‘measurable’ improvements in biodiversity and green infrastructure. The sustainability checklist (www.sustainability-checklist.co.uk) provides a useful toolkit for practitioners, which is of direct relevance to the delivery of the Green Grid. The Kent Environment Strategy has been developed to present the environmental issues affecting the whole County and establish a collective and integrated response. The Swale Green Grid provides an effective response to the wide range of environmental issues and will make a significant contribution to agreed environmental objectives and particular the objectives set out under the themes: • On your doorstep

Kent County Council Environment Strategy, 2003

A focused and visionary environmental agenda will be central to successful regeneration. High quality, distinct urban and rural landscapes, accessible diverse open spaces and contact with wildlife are increasingly recognised as key components of sustainable communities, contributing to people’s quality of life and supporting economic and social programmes.

• Nature matters • A sense of history • Sustainable settlements • Travel wise Since the publication of the Kent Environment Strategy, there have been a number of progress reports and the 2007 Progress Report highlights continuing pressure on natural resources and the particular challenge of water management and climate change. The Swale Green Grid can contribute to the delivery of the targets set out in this report and might also provide valuable statistics for monitoring environmental change.

While a planning constraints approach can continue to conserve important green spaces, it will not be adequate to achieve these multifaceted goals. Instead there is a need to take a positive, proactive and holistic approach to delivering a sustainable and diverse landscape framework for Swale’s communities.

6

The Kent & Medway Structure Plan, adopted July 6 2006

The Kent & Medway Structure Plan, jointly produced by Kent County Council and Medway Council, sets out the strategic planning framework for the protection of the environment, major transport priorities, and the scale, pattern and broad location of new development including provision for new housing and major economic development across Kent and Medway. The Swale Green Grid is consistent with the proposed policies and particularly ‘Policies for Protecting our Natural Environment’, ‘Promoting Quality of Life in Town and Country’ (especially Policy QL 17 – greenspace networks and rights of way) and Policy TP11: Facilities for Pedestrians and Cyclists.

Kent Rights of Way Improvement Plan, Draft 2007, Kent County Council

The Rights of Way Improvements Plan (RWIP) sets out a 10 year strategy for improving access to the countryside based on local and national research. It aims to increase the usage and enjoyment of public rights of way and open green spaces in Kent. The Swale Green Grid Strategy offers an opportunity to coordinate delivery of improved public access to the countryside, responding to the specific issues raised in the RWIP

27


n re at io

Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan, 2004-2009

Running along the southern boundary of Swale, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an internationally recognised natural landscape area designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and protected by various statute including the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The AONB management plan provides the management framework for the AONB. The AONB is an important landscape and recreational resource for the communities of Swale and Swale’s Green Grid will take account of, and develop options for, access to the AONB. Of particular relevance are policies relating to the sustainable management of the AONB’s landscapes, visitor facilities, open access sites and public rights of way, opportunities for sustainable tourism and high quality interpretation and the provision of coordinated information about visitor use, recreation and access across the AONB.

Re c

Kent’s Local Transport Plan aims to provide good, safe accessibility to jobs and services for all sections of the community, to improve the environment and health of the community and to widen the choice of available transport by developing public transport and promoting walking and cycling. The Swale Green Grid will make a strong contribution to all these policy objectives.

&

Local Transport Plan, Kent County Council, 2006-11

s

Relevance

Ac c

es

Policy document

Local Policy Policy document

Relevance

Swale Corporate Plan 2007

See separate table in Annex B ‘Priority Swale’ is the working document of the Local Strategic Partnership and details its priorities over a 10 year period. Targets are summarised under 7 key themes. The implementation of Swale’s Green Grid will make a direct contribution to the delivery of 4 of the themes:

Green and clean – ensure that preservation and enhancement of the natural environment is fully integrated into Swale’s regeneration and renewal and to create a sustainable network of green public open space

Connected – an efficient and integrated sustainable transport and communication network, capable of supporting a growing population and increased economic opportunity

Sustainable neighbourhoods – exemplary urban and rural environments in which people chose to live and work.

iv

ct

Vibrant and safe – provide accessible, safe but interesting public spaces and recreation facilities where there are fulfilling opportunities for everyone

ne

n Co

Priority Swale – Swale’s Sustainable Communities Plan to 2016, Swale Local Strategic Partnership

ity en

28

es

ac

Sp

Swale’s Regeneration Framework sets out the overall vision for regeneration in Swale. The key locations for regeneration highlighted in the Framework are also listed within the Swale Green Grid Strategy and there is a direct link between investment in regeneration and investment in the Green Grid network. The Green Grid Strategy also reflects the emphasis in the Regeneration Framework on sense of place and the need to ensure that physical development contributes to local identity and distinctiveness

e Gr

Swale Regeneration Framework, 2006 – 2016, Swale Forward

&

Swale Borough Local Plan, Adopted July 2000

The Swale Borough Local Plan, covering the period to 2006 but currently under review, and being rolled forward to 2016 contains a range of policies and proposals aimed at protecting and raising environmental quality and increasing the provision of new open spaces accessible by local communities. Sites proposed for development, particularly those within the urban areas, will be required to provide new green and open spaces which will all contribute to the wider Green Grid objectives.


Annex B - Links to Swales Corporate Plan Swale Corporate Plan & Swale Green Grid: Cross-cutting themes & priorities Swale Corporate Plan Priorities

Green Grid benefits

le op Pe &

Attract investment – Provide a setting for investment, complementing inward investment in homes, jobs and tourism. High quality landscape settings and integrated access will enhance property values and help to attract investors and residents

es ac Pl

Regenerating Swale

Employment opportunities - large scale green space provision can also have a direct impact on the local economy providing employment opportunities for local contractors, nurseries and grounds maintenance contractors through both the public and private sectors. Opportunities are likely to be generated in the fields of outdoor education, play leadership, horticultural therapy, sport supervision and countryside interpretation. There may also be the scope to develop commercial operations based on timber crops and green waste recycling.

Reinforce local distinctiveness - a strong landscape infrastructure will establish urban and rural character and provide a setting for new development, promoting a sense of place and installing community pride.

nm

en

t

Sustainable transport - accessible greenspace and wildlife areas along with an integrated network of safe, attractive cycle and pedestrian routes are at the heart of the Green Grid. The network of green routes will enhance access to green space but will also provide safe, attractive routes to schools, work and shops providing a real alternative to car based travel.

Na

tu ra

l&

Bu ilt

En vi

ro

Contact with nature - landscape improvements based on sustainable principles will bring people closer to nature and provide both physical and visual contact with wildlife and natural environments.

Creating a greener, cleaner Swale

Manage greenspace assets - the Green Grid will maximise the potential of the greenspace resource of the Borough, which ranges from cemeteries and pocket parks to allotments, private gardens and parks, to serve local needs whilst ensuring that more sensitive sites and wildlife areas are protected for future generations. Enhance biodiversity value - the Green Grid will substantially benefit local wildlife, contribute to local Biodiversity Action Plan objectives and raise awareness of biodiversity issues amongst local residents. Existing areas of ecological interest will be identified and enhanced, development of new spaces and the review of current open space, squares and streetscapes will create opportunities for additional habitat as well as green corridors to increase connectivity between natural areas which will assist colonisation and the movement of wildlife. Environmental education - Through the adoption of sustainable management practices in all greenspace areas, wildlife will be brought into the urban area and closer to people providing opportunities for education, interpretation and contact. This will help to increase quality of life and provide a platform for raising awareness of biodiversity and sustainability issues.

29


Swale Corporate Plan Priorities

Green Grid benefits

Contents

Recreation - The Green Grid will improve access to meet the needs of a large number of people, identify opportunities for open space and creating access within existing and new developments to ensure a coherent and integrated approach to open space and access provision. It will also provide improvements in both the quality and quantity of facilities for formal and informal recreation. This is has been identified as the highest cultural priority by residents of the Borough.

Promoting a safer & stronger community

Community engagement - In addition to preserving and celebrating local heritage and culture, the Green Grid will have a direct practical, cultural and social role. Accessible green spaces in close proximity to where people live will provide opportunities for social interaction, cultural events and other non-recreation activities such as volunteering, environmental education, art festivals and outdoor performance. Opportunities for community involvement will provide a common interest and promote social engagement. Involvement will also create a sense of local achievement and pride of place which can do much to raise community aspirations and will, over the longer term, help to ensure successful ownership and protect investment in the landscape.

Healthy lifestyles - preventative health care is increasingly highlighted as a principal benefit of adopting a bold approach to greenspace planning and implementation. Contact with greenspace can reduce stress and contribute to health and a sense of well being. Involvement in greenspace can benefit people with sensory and other disabilities. An integrated, accessible and diverse greenspace also promotes and provides opportunities and facilities for more active exercise whether through formal sport, organised activities or informal recreation.

Education - the local landscape is a valuable learning asset at all levels providing a wealth of cultural, social, historical, natural heritage and environmental resources. The Green Grid will help to identify and protect these resources and, through interpretation and in partnership with interest groups, increase access and local appreciation. The Green Grid will also provide practical training opportunities (for instance in horticulture, countryside management, interpretation and construction, helping to address the increasing shortage of people without practical environmental management skills.

Becoming a high performing organisation

Partnership working - Sustainable principles are being promoted and supported in relation to new developments, in agriculture, across business and in daily lives. Mechanisms, partnerships and the knowledge to deliver landscape and access enhancements exist within the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Green Grid Strategy can ensure that this effort is co-ordinated towards a common plan, by providing access to advice and support, promoting best practice and identifying deficiencies in the network and delivery process.

1 Green Grid Framework

1.1

Context

6

1.2

Why a Green Grid?

7

1.3

How does it add value?

7

1.4

What will it deliver?

7

1.5

The case for investment

8

1.6

Delivering strategic priorities

8

1.7

Case Studies

9 & 10

2 Green Grid Components

2.1

Swale’s environmental resource

11

2.2

Green Grid opportunities

12

3 Swale’s Green Grid Vision

3.1

Green Grid structure

14

3.2

Swale Green Grid Strategic Framework

14

Swale’s Green Grid Delivery Plan is available as a separate document containing Green Grid project schedules cross referenced to a GIS map of all the Green Grid projects. It is regularly updated

Map 1 - Kent landscape character areas

16

Map 2 - Landscape & biodiversity importance

18

Map 3 - Ecological network model

20

Map 4 - Accesibility

22

Map 5 - Strategic Green Grid Framework

24

Annexes

A

Strategic policy context

26

B

Links to Swale’s Corporate Plan

29

C

February 2007 Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop

31

30

Page No.

3


Swale Borough Council

Much of Swale’s natural environment is of outstanding quality and must be protected. However, this quality is not distributed evenly across the Borough, and access to services and amenities is also relatively poor. Future investment will focus on improving the quality of and access to open space, enhancing the Borough’s cultural infrastructure and ensuring that new developments are truly sustainable.1

T

he Borough of Swale is situated on the North Kent Coast between the Medway Towns and Canterbury and is a diverse area comprising four areas, Faversham, the Isle of Sheppey, Sittingbourne and the rural hinterland. Swale has spectacular natural assets, ranging from the unique coastal marshlands to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is also scattered with attractive towns and villages. The quality of these environments is a major asset to the area, not only to the quality of life for people that live and work locally but also to future prosperity, impacting upon the area’s ability to attract visitors and investment. The Council has an important role in safeguarding and enhancing our natural and built environments. We will integrate this into our regeneration programme, enhancing what we have and creating new high quality places, in which people will want to live, work and spend leisure time.2

Natural England Natural England works for people, places and nature, to enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas; promote access, recreation and public well-being; and contribute to the way natural resources are managed so that they can be enjoyed now and in the future. Natural England supports Swale’s Green Grid strategy and the role that the Swale Green Grid Steering Group has played in promoting green infrastructure throughout the Kent Thames Gateway. The Swale Green Grid strategy has a direct relevance to our four strategic outcomes, which together helps deliver on our purpose to conserve, enhance and manage the natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

Swale Forward is the Local Regeneration Partnership for Swale.

Swale Forward’s vision is: “To achieve a transformation in Swale’s economic, social and environmental profile, so that it is one of the best places in Britain in which to live, work, learn and invest.” This vision is broad and ambitious. However, Swale has a number of opportunities that will enable it to move towards achieving the vision including the quality of Swale’s natural environment. Swale performs well in respect of many environmental indicators, and indeed, part of Swale’s attractiveness as a place in which to live, work and invest is the high quality of its natural environment.

A healthy natural environment: Delivered through a network of high quality, multifunctional green spaces.

Enjoyment of the natural environment: More people will be able to access, enjoy, understand and act to improve, the natural environment.

Sustainable use of the natural environment: The potential use and management of multifunctional green spaces/ landscapes that benefits all.

A secure environmental future: The landscape and green space networks are to be regarded as the functional green infrastructure which is needed to create a positive sense of place, providing environmental protection for local communities and enhancing the quality of life of those who live and work in the Thames Gateway.

The Swale Green Grid Partnership comprises representatives of the following organisations:

Annex C - February 2007 Green Grid stakeholder workshop Swale Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop

A key objective of the Swale workshop was to establish Green Grid priorities which will operate in accordance with Swale’s Regeneration Framework (2006-2016). Many of the projects discussed were on the Isle of Sheppey, where ongoing regeneration projects at Sheerness, Queenborough & Rushenden and Leysdown, and the EcoTourism project planned for the south of the island, are providing a surge of opportunities for positive environmental and social change. This is also the case in Sittingbourne, where Green Grid projects are being delivered as part of the Sittingbourne Central Area Framework and proposed as part of a range of potential new development sites on the fringes of the town, including the Kent Science Park extension, Fulston Manor Link, and the Kemsley and Eurolink employment sites.

February 2007

T

he Swale Green Grid Stakeholder Workshop was one of three workshops held in Kent Thameside, Medway and Swale. The workshops were designed to update local stakeholders on progress with the Green Grid in each of the Green Grid areas and to encourage them to contribute their own ideas and project opportunities. The introductory session at each workshop included talks relevant to each Green Grid area, as well as an overview (by Natural England) of the potential benefits of the Green Grid within the wider Thames Gateway growth area.

Stakeholders called for Green Grid projects to focus on the distinctive character of Swale’s landscape, with particular emphasis on improving access to Swale’s long, intricate shoreline and its grazing marshes, creeks and rivers. One idea was for a round Sheppey ferry service which calls in at the sequence of creeks along the Swale. Milton Creek at Sittingbourne is the subject of one of the Green Grid proposals which would extend the Church Marshes Country Park, reconnecting the town with its estuarine setting. By contrast, the Green Grid proposal for Faversham Creek has a heritage focus, perhaps with the potential to bring historic barges into the town centre.

Workshop participants were asked to come to the workshops with ideas for potential Green Grid projects or themes – these might be ongoing projects within their own organisations, potential projects which might be planned to meet their current targets or just ideas and themes for joint discussion. They were divided into break-out groups and asked to record their ideas on post-it notes, to think about how they might prioritise existing and potential projects and to map their thoughts. Each break-out group was provided with a large scale base map of the Green Grid area, a set of five GIS maps showing different aspects of the environmental resource, a set of large scale conceptual vision maps (the result of a Green Grid visioning workshop in November 2006) and a rights of way map showing some potential long distance footpath and cycle routes.

A range of existing Green Grid projects along the fringes of the downs focus on ancient woodlands at Perry Wood, the Blean, Highsted and Cromer’s Wood and there is an extension to the chalkland nature reserve at Queendown Warren. Stakeholders suggested that there might be a series of linked Green Grid projects centred on Swale’s chalkland valleys, with footpath/cycleway links, conservation initiatives, woodland management and possibly heritage orchard restoration projects.

At the end of the break-out session, tracing overlays of sketch ideas were pinned up over base maps on the wall and the facilitators for each group summarised the group discussions. The workshop facilitators recorded the discussion, listing all the potential projects and themes mentioned.

Overall Swale’s Green Grid portfolio has a strong biodiversity element, reflecting the exceptional scale of Swale’s estuarine grazing marshes and intertidal habitats. Estuarine habitat conservation and restoration initiatives are planned at the Elmley National Nature Reserve and Capel Fleet on Sheppey and at Oare Marshes, Seasalter Leisure Plots and Murston Lakes on the south bank of the Swale.

The discussion provided a wealth of information, with stakeholders commenting on existing Green Grid projects and presenting a range of new ideas for consideration. The facilitators followed up the workshop with telephone calls to many of the participants to clarify the points they had made and obtain accurate mapped information about sites and the potential location of projects.

Swale Borough Council, Swale Forward, Natural England, Greening the Gateway Kent and Medway, Kent County Council, Groundwork Kent and Medway, Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit (AONB), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Kent Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and the Private Sector Liaison Group (PSLG) 1 2

Swale Forward, Regeneration Framework 2006-2016 Swale Borough Council, Corporate Plan 2007-2011 - Shaping the Future

2

31


Contacting Swale Borough Council The Customer Service Centre deals with all enquiries across the Council; it should be your first stop when contacting us. Copies of this Swale Borough Council plan are available on the Council website www.swale.gov.uk If you would like further hard copies or alternative versions (i.e. large print, audio, different language) we will do our best to accommodate your request. Please contact the Council at: Swale Borough Council Swale House, East Street Sittingbourne Kent, ME10 3HT Customer Service Centre

Swale Green Grid Strategy Final Report

( 01795 417850

November 2007

Swale Green Grid Strategy  

A Green Grid framework for Swale