The extension of a partnership, which has created forest meadows and wildlife corridors across Swindon, was a topic of discussion at Swindon Council's Cabinet's most recent meeting.
Swindon Borough Council says it is looking to build on its work with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (the Trust) to greatly expand the number of woodland, grassland and wildflower sites across the Borough.
The partnership, through the Swindon Forest Meadows project, has created new areas of woodland, scrub and grassland at Mouldon Hill, new woodland and river restoration at the Rivermead Flood Storage area, and support for community projects throughout Swindon, including, Shaftesbury Lakes, Raybrook Meadow, The Prinnels, Foundation Park and Penhill Haven.
Following the success of this partnership programme, supported by large numbers of local volunteers, the council and the Trust have agreed to extend and expand the project.
Under the plans, the Trust says it would identify opportunities for biodiversity enhancements and, subject to the council’s approval, would then develop and deliver the schemes. The Trust will also lead on the creation of long-term management plans.
In addition to this, there are plans for a major focus on enhancing the wildlife corridor running from Mouldon Hill Country Park through to the River Ray Parkway. This includes creating new paths that will help to make it easier for local residents to experience the wildlife along this corridor.
There would also be a strong focus on providing access to nature for the Borough's more deprived communities.
A spokesperson said: "Green infrastructure such as forest meadows can help to mitigate climate change by reducing Green House Gas emissions. It is also vital to enable people and wildlife to adapt to the rising temperatures and extreme weather events associated with climate change."
The partnership would be funded by a combination of ‘Biodiversity Offsetting payments’ from developers who are unable to deliver net biodiversity gain through their development on site and a ‘Trees for Climate’ grant funding from DEFRA where the schemes incorporate tree planting.
Cllr Gary Sumner, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Infrastructure, Transport and Planning, said: “Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has done a fantastic job running the existing Swindon Forest Meadows project, and this expanded partnership will allow us to significantly improve our biodiversity in the borough, as well as providing countless opportunities for residents of Swindon to be involved.
“I want to thank the Trust and the large numbers of fantastic local volunteers for their brilliant work on the project to date and, if the expanded partnership is approved by councillors, I look forward to seeing even more great habitats being created across Swindon.”
Neil Pullen, Swindon Conservation Lead at Wiltshire Wildlife trust, said: “The partnership with Swindon Borough Council has been a real success, creating and better managing habitats across the borough.
"A fantastic band of volunteers come together in all weathers to create and manage habitats and to record the wildlife seen. But it is not just the wildlife that has benefited; over the past few years, so many people have accessed local green spaces as a boost to their physical and mental wellbeing.
“We look forward to a further partnership with Swindon Borough Council, working with new communities, welcoming volunteers from across Swindon whilst creating and maintain spaces for wildlife and people.”
To find the latest volunteering opportunities with the Swindon Forest Meadows project and to book a session, individuals can go to https://volunteering.wiltshirewildlife.org or follow the Swindon Forest Meadows Facebook page for updates.
All tools and equipment are provided and no experience is necessary, although booking in advance is required.
New sessions are added regularly, and no two days are the same, with a range of activities including tree planting, wildflower seed sowing and coppicing.
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