My name is Sue Jordan, Senior Environmental Manager in DIO Safety, Environment and Engineering. My colleagues and I work on a range of initiatives that protect and enhance the MOD estate worldwide. My blog explains the range of partnership working that has gone into the planning of the Army Basing Programme which I am proud to say won both the Sustainability Project Award and the Sustainable Business Award at this year's MOD Sanctuary Awards event.
The Army Basing Programme (ABP) is one of MOD’s biggest capital investments, targeting over £1.3bn to accommodate British Army personnel and their families, including those returning to the UK from Germany, by 2020. The majority of development is taking place around Salisbury Plain, where military communities are being created, with over 1,300 family homes, 2,500 Single Living bed-spaces and extensive garrison infrastructure being built in Larkhill, Bulford, Ludgershall, Perham, Upavon and Tidworth.
Salisbury Plain has been in use as a military training area for over 100 years and as a result, much of the land is protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and/or Special Protection Areas (SPA). It is home to many rare species of plant and animal, as well as historically significant archaeological sites, from the Neolithic to WWI. We would have to overcome the challenges of developing in such an environmentally sensitive area before planning approvals could be given.
Specifically, we had to overcome the following:
- Loss of chalk grassland, important to rare species of animals and plants
- Impacts on the World Heritage Site and archaeological landscape;
- The risk of unexploded ordnance and historic contamination;
- Increasing recreational pressure on stone curlew and other ground-nesting birds; and
- Increased water abstraction and waste water discharges into the River Avon.
DIO developed the Salisbury Plain Masterplan to help guide where development should take place; as part of this, we worked closely with Natural England, Environment Agency, Historic England, Wiltshire Council and our industry partners to develop workable solutions to the environmental challenges of ABP developments.
To manage chalk grassland loss, we developed a plan to recreate equivalent amounts of grassland habitat across the Plain. Landmarc’s programme of scrub clearance and livestock grazing will remove invasive scrub and reconnect isolated pockets of this priority habitat, allowing it to flourish once more.
Extensive archaeological surveys and excavation of development areas were undertaken by WYG and Wessex Archaeology, working with Wiltshire Council and Heritage England. Discoveries included Neolithic Henges, WWI practice trenches and an extensive Saxon cemetery where one of the burials was carbon dated to AD660-780. Pre-planning these evaluations has avoided delaying the build programme.
In an area with such a long military history, work on Salisbury Plain often uncovers unexploded ordnance and contaminated land. ABP is no exception, and an extensive programme of clearance has been undertaken to make the sites safe for their future use. Contaminated material has been safely dealt with and where possible safely re-used as foundation material in new technical buildings. At Ludgershall, less than 5% of the 2,500 tonnes of building waste went to landfill.
To reduce people’s need to visit the protected training area (particularly for dog walking), we are creating a network of local recreational routes around the housing developments.
Finally, we had to ensure that our increased demand for water and discharge of waste water would not adversely affect the River Avon. This was our biggest challenge, as our water comes from local sources supporting the protected river system. To do this, we collaborated with our regulators to develop MOD’s first Integrated Water Management Strategy. This will manage how we will abstract and discharge water, and see investment in new efficient infrastructure, new supplies from local water companies and restrictions on existing abstractions. We are also supporting a Catchment-Sensitive Farming initiative with Natural England, allowing MOD to demolish Larkhill Sewage Treatment Works - a key objective for Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
To find out more about each of these projects in detail, have a look at the latest edition of Sanctuary Magazine.