Wilder Horsham District
In this section
What action can be taken?
Government policy has recognised that in order to reverse the general decline in habitats and species population new approaches are required.
This Wilder Horsham District partnership between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Council will draw on some of these new approaches; such as taking a wider landscape approach to enhance wildlife and not restricting actions to specific sites.
What is the role of Horsham District Council in the WHD project?
The District Council supports the project officers based at the Sussex Wildlife Trust via the project team and steering group. There is close working between both organisations, for example, encouraging and supporting volunteers to undertake work that assists in the development of the network.
The District Council already manages many of its parks and countryside sites for the benefit of wildlife. However, it will review its land management practices so that it contributes to the developing NRN.
Both organisations will work to inspire communities throughout the area to value wildlife and take action, on land of all sizes, to help it thrive. This will be an essential part of delivering the NRN.
The District Council is also responsible for land use planning in the District (excluding the South Downs National Park). The Government guidance on how Nature Recovery Networks should interact with development is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.
In summary, planning should take account of the NRN and use it to inform where development can be made sustainable by protecting and enhancing nature. Adverse impacts should be avoided and opportunities to incorporate improvements for wildlife in and around development should be encouraged. The upcoming mandatory requirement, in the Environment Bill, for Biodiversity Net Gain reinforces that there must be wildlife gains as part of development. The NRN map will help to identify the types of Biodiversity Net Gains that could be secured.
What is the role of the Sussex Wildlife Trust
The Sussex Wildlife Trust employs the two project officers and supports them via the project team and steering group. Sussex Wildlife Trust also provides technical and expert support for the project.
As a conservation organisation focused on protecting and enhancing the rich natural life of Sussex its focus is on using Nature Recovery Networks to drive Nature’s Recovery across all of Sussex. As such Sussex Wildlife Trust’s role is in encouraging Horsham District Council to make evidence-based decisions using the Nature Recovery Network information that the Wilder Horsham District Project has produced and will continue to refine.
The work prepared by this project will be fed directly into any emerging Local Nature Recovery Strategy, so that it can inform the Nature Recovery Networks being developed by that process.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust will promote Nature’s Recovery in relation to the Council’s other roles and responsibilities, asserting the importance of the network for the ongoing ecological integrity of the district, particularly where the Council’s other duties might result in a competing priorities.
There have already been some successes in protecting and enhancing wildlife, such as the Rewilding project on the Knepp Estate and the restoration of river habitat on the Adur. However, there are certain landscapes and areas of the Horsham District that will be the focus of the work of the partnership. At present these are:
Areas of focus:
- Hedgerows in the Low Weald (providing important connectivity between fragmented habitats)
- Woodland - New planting and allowing natural regeneration are important tools in capturing more carbon and helping wildlife
- The Adur catchment; improve freshwater and floodplain habitats, water quality and flood resilience through working with natural processes
- Join up key sites, such as joining the Knepp Estate with the woodland to the north-east of Horsham town and The Mens in the west of the District, creating the core of a District-wide ecological network
- Supporting pollinating insects: Take action to support pollinating insects throughout the District, in both towns and rural areas
Although these are currently the focus of the work, this is likely to change as more information emerges from the work of the Sussex Nature Partnership.
What actions will the partnership take?
There are four headings that will shape the actions of the partnership:
- Organisational resilience
- Landscape resilience
- Community resilience
Each of these contribute to the overarching aims of the partnership. The measures of success in the actions listed in each section below are currently outputs from the programme. Proxy measures will be developed to gauge the success of enhancing nature across the District once more analysis has been completed.
Making a commitment to wildlife and the natural environment has to start at an organisational level. This will make sure that all tiers of decision making are sharing the ambitions of a Wilder Horsham District. Organisational resilience means ensuring that the principles of the programme are embedded throughout the Council.
Horsham District Council has a direct role to play in creating a wilder district, as it owns and manages land in the area. It is already changing the way it manages its parks and countryside sites to increase species and habitats. For example, it owns and manages Chesworth Farm, a 90 acre site, which gives Horsham residents an opportunity to experience the benefits of nature within walking distance of their homes.
The District Council will draw on the expertise of the Sussex Wildlife Trust to make further improvements and enhance the presence of the Trust throughout the District.
The Trust will also work with the council to embed the principles of the Wilder Horsham District programme into all parts of the organisation.
This will build organisational resilience to achieve the aims of the partnership. For example, the Trust will run training events for staff and help the council develop policies on biodiversity as part of the review of the Local Plan, as well as reviewing the existing Green Infrastructure Strategy (2014).
Objective: Embed the principles of Wilder Horsham District with the Council’s decision makers.
Action: An annual wildlife and climate change seminar for Councillors to give an update on the national context and progress of the partnership.
Measure of success: Feedback from Councillors after every event.
Objective: Share the principles of Wilder Horsham District with council staff to embed these in relevant Council policies.
Action: Bespoke internal events, training programme and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for Council staff on wildlife issues.
Measure of success: Audit of key documents after years 3 and 5. Feedback from staff after every event.
Although the District has wildlife sites and species that are protected, a complementary approach to this form of nature conservation is required to reverse the decline in nature. Protected sites and species are often isolated from each other and habitats are becoming increasingly fragmented. A landscape approach is required which increases wildlife in all parts of the countryside and also in urban areas. This will build landscape resilience which will ensure that wildlife can move around the landscape and also has the benefit of making nature accessible to more people.
Nature Recovery Networks
This approach will require changes to land management and actions such as planting trees and hedgerows to link sites that are already important for wildlife. These are known as Nature Recovery Networks. The partnership will, therefore, work with landowners and communities to develop these networks. This work will also link to the Local Plan by highlighting areas where new development can play a part in enhancing these networks.
We will use the best available data sets for the district, from a range of organisations to ensure that clear objectives are put in place for the Horsham District Nature Recovery Network. For example, some areas will prioritise flood resilience or water quality issues but all areas will prioritise the creation of new linkages in the landscape.
Five Key Actions:
1. Establish and expand a Horsham District wide Nature Recovery Network
1. Objective: Identify and map the key elements of a District-wide NRN.
Measure of success: Mapped key assets and the Nature Recovery Networks
2. Objective: Develop and prioritise actions to deliver NRN's across the District.
Measure of success:
2. Principles of a Wilder Horsham District embedded into the review of the Horsham District Local Plan
The Local Plan review to incorporate the NRN and Ecosystems Services approach by drawing on national advice and experience from other local authorities. Jointly explore how biodiversity net gain can be implemented in the Horsham District and link to the establishment of the NRNs. SWT to provide advice on principles that could be incorporated in new developments to enhance wildlife.
Measure of success:
3. All HDC services contribute to, and maximise opportunities for, increasing wildlife
Objective: Ensure that key Council services are delivering landscape resilience.
Redraft the Council’s Green Infrastructure Strategy to incorporate the NRN and new wildlife ambitions for the District. Jointly establish increased wildlife ambitions for the District and review all Council policies and processes to reflect these. Explore whether the principles of Natural Capital could be incorporated into Council decision making.
Measure of success: U
4. Incorporate the Council estate into the NRN and the principles of landscape resilience
Objective: Ensure that the Parks and Countryside and the Property Services Teams are delivering the principles of the Wilder Horsham District programme.
- Undertake an assessment of the HDC estate against the NRN key principles with steps for enhancing key services and benefits.
- Identify land management practices on HDC land to contribute to the development of the NRN.
- New Council developments to incorporate elements that increase wildlife on site and take the establishment of the NRN into account.
Measure of Success:
5. Engage with West Sussex County Council on the principles of the Wilder Horsham District
Aim: Engage with WSCC on the principles of the Wilder Horsham District
Objective: Ensure WSCC services are delivering landscape resilience by taking NRN into account.
Action: Promote the NRN to key County departments and engage with them when establishing the NRN.
The partnership will provide support and funding for existing and new organisations and communities to enhance wildlife and provide opportunities for more residents to access the natural environment.
The final part of the overarching actions is to ensure that communities across the Horsham District are part of the solution to reversing the decline in wildlife, linking communities to their local green spaces and building networks for wildlife.
There are many organisations and community groups that are already taking action to improve the natural environment of the District. Organisations such as Parish and Neighbourhood Councils own land and are close to their communities. It is also important to inspire new communities to get involved.
It is important that everyone is part of the overall vision to reverse the decline in wildlife and have an increased understanding of the critical benefits that habitats and species provide.
Objective: Engage with parish/neighbourhood councils and community groups through targeted events.
- Hold three events for parish/neighbourhood councils and community groups.
- Provide follow-up advice and support for the councils and groups to take action.
Measure of success: Proportion of communities supported. (Target is for bespoke contact with 60% of parish/neighbourhood councils). New Neighbourhood Plans incorporate principles developed via Wilder Horsham District.
Appoint a Wilder Horsham District Community Officer to provide advice and support to community groups and organisation to develop their own ecological networks and access to funding. Create an online support and resource space for SWT to share experience and best practice with groups/organisations and to allow the groups to network.
Measure of success:
Achievements of the programme
Measure of success: Level of engagement of communities
It is important that the work that this partnership commences continues beyond five years. Plans include:
1. To build a legacy, the partnership will maximise opportunities to leverage new funding; such as through the work of the Local Nature Partnership.
2. The foundations that are put in place by embedding the principles of a Wilder Horsham District into the council, as well as the work with landowners, organisations and community groups will ensure that the work to reverse the decline in the wildlife of the district will continue beyond the life of the partnership.
3. Throughout the five years of delivery look at longer term funding options (including corporate social responsibility, Community Infrastructure Levy and section 106 targeting) to ensure financial viability of investment in the Horsham District Nature Recovery Network going forward.
4. Wilder Horsham District will be concluded with an inspirational event to share the gains and the lessons learnt with stakeholders with a focus on legacy and future co-operation.
5. A Wilder Horsham District will raise awareness of the role of SWT and the importance of protecting and enhancing wildlife.