Although UK Power Network land holdings are mainly in the form of electricity substations that supply electricity to the surrounding regions, each substation sits on land that could potentially contribute to wildlife initiatives on a local, regional, and even a national scale. The land around these substations is relatively free from human access which, especially in high population density areas, may be scarce in the surrounding landscape.
As the project begins, UK Power Networks have sought the advice of conservation organisations across London and the East and South East of England so the most ecological value can be gained from this project, including the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and local Wildlife Trusts in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, London, Sussex and Surrey. Natural England, the government’s advisor for the natural environment, are also lending their support to the project: "Natural England recognises the need for organisations of this scale to assume responsibility for promoting biodiversity across the United Kingdom. The UK Power Networks Biodiversity Net Gain Project has great potential to demonstrate how Net Gain can be incorporated into the fabric of a major organisation as a means of protecting and enhancing the natural world.”
As part of the two year process, over 1000 UK Power Networks sites are to be evaluated by ADAS using existing data, aerial imagery and ground truthing to better understand their current biodiversity level. A biodiversity value will then be assigned to each to identify the top 100 sites that have the most potential to improve and feed into wider landscape initiatives (i.e. Biodiversity Action Plans).
As each site will be its own distinctive habitat benefiting different species in a given location, a local rather than a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach will be taken. Once more is known about each site, work will begin on putting site specific action plans in place. When the proposed habitat enhancements are then more established, the 100 sites can be re-assessed to show the overall increased biodiversity value. This value can be costed up to show which sites provided the best biodiversity net gain. Staff are also being encouraged to promote and look for ways to encourage biodiversity on sites they manage.
It is hoped that once the initial 2 year project is complete, the progress being made will continue to grow as more opportunities are found as the sites develop.
For more information on this project, please contact James Simpson, Associate Director of Environment at ADAS or the ADAS Ecology team.