National Character Area 66

Mid Severn Sandstone Plateau - Detailed Statements of Environmental Opportunity

This section expands on the Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity and provides further detail on each of the Statements of Environmental Opportunity.

SEO 1

SEO 1: Protect, expand and appropriately manage the characteristic habitats of the NCA, specifically lowland heathland, acid grasslands and woodland including orchards and hedgerows, thus reinforcing the sense of history and reducing habitat fragmentation for the benefits that this will bring to resource protection, biodiversity, climate regulation and the recreational and experiential qualities of the NCA.

For example by:

  • Working in collaboration with partners to seek ways of avoiding further losses or degradation of existing characteristic habitats from threats posed by commercial forestry, mineral extraction and housing, the expansion of arable cultivation, increased demand for recreation and over-abstraction of water.
  • Restoring heathland and grassland by re-introducing traditional land management techniques, reinstating appropriate levels of grazing where possible and managing sensitive areas of habitat by restricting public access where and when necessary and providing alternatives.
  • Working in collaboration with quarry operators to encourage the restoration of quarries to priority habitats, for example heathland and acid grassland, incorporating habitats for invertebrates.
  • Encouraging the restoration of hedgerows with typical species, by gapping up and planting their accompanying hedgerow trees, adopting appropriate cutting regimes and tagging to extend the age range and species diversity.
  • Encouraging the natural regeneration of characteristic habitats in areas traditionally occupied by this habitat in order to reduce fragmentation, thus enabling the movement of species in response to climate change.
  • Buffering and improving the quality and connectivity of core areas of characteristic habitats, for example Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the National Nature Reserve, Local Nature Reserves and Local Sites, particularly in the urban areas.
  • Encouraging the uptake of Environmental Stewardship options that promote the establishment of blocks of woodland and grassland margins in agricultural areas that buffer existing sites and the use of species-rich seed mixes.
  • Discussing with equestrian landowners the option of laying mixed- species grassland and planting mixed-species hedgerows, particularly on the urban fringe where equestrian land use is most prevalent.
  • Working in collaboration with the forestry sector to encourage landowners to plant more trees where appropriate in the landscape.
  • Encouraging landscape partnerships and woodland owners to reinstate traditional woodland management techniques, for example coppicing to thin the canopy and clear felling to provide woodland clearings
    that benefit woodland flora, birds and invertebrates, and recruiting volunteers to learn species monitoring and habitat management, to improve the quality of sites and to halt the decline in traditional skills.
  • Seeking ways of stimulating the market for wood fuel and wood products by encouraging the installation of wood fuel boilers in local community buildings close to the source, to sustain woodland management, for example as happens in Wyre Forest.
  • Replacing plantations on ancient woodland sites with native broadleaved species and augmenting ancient and veteran trees with similar species, thus maintaining the structural diversity and sustaining their value as both a biodiversity and cultural resource.
  • Considering selective felling of woodland that was once used as wood fuel, to reinstate vistas which are now obscured, for example along sections of the Severn Valley.
  • Controlling invasive species, for example rhododendron and ivy, and introducing biosecurity measures in areas that are not accessible by the public.
  • Managing the remnant orchards in Wyre Forest and establishing new orchards throughout the NCA to stimulate the market for local produce and for the benefits that this will bring to ecosystem services of genetic diversity, biodiversity and climate regulation.
  • Working in collaboration with farmers and landowners to protect the valuable soil resource of the NCA through appropriate management.

SEO 2

SEO 2: Protect and manage the rivers and streams of the NCA to mitigate the extremes of drought and flood events, and protect the water quality of the River Severn and safeguard aquifer recharge areas by managing discharges to watercourses and protecting and increasing areas of semi-natural riparian habitats along river valleys, streams, canals and urban watercourses.

For example by:

  • Encouraging sustainable use of water; promoting water conservation measures to reduce demand and thus abstraction by increasing water harvesting in urban areas and establishing over-winter storage for agricultural use, when water is plentiful.
  • Reducing the use of pesticides and minimising fertiliser inputs to protect the important recharge areas of the Sherwood Sandstone aquifer from diffuse pollution; protecting watercourses within the Drinking Water Protected Area from diffuse pollution and reducing sediment load.
  • Buffering watercourses in agricultural areas to prevent, or minimise, the levels of pesticides, nitrates and sediment entering the rivers, resulting in expensive filtration; ensuring good soil management throughout the National Character Area (NCA).
  • Identifying natural areas for floodwater storage to reduce the reliance on hard engineering solutions; widening flood plains where possible and ensuring that they are not inappropriately developed, reinstating flood meadows throughout the riparian environs in the NCA and ensuring dual use of riparian open spaces in urban areas, for example flood-compatible playing fields and parks.
  • Managing and increasing areas of woodland along river valleys and dingles for the benefits that this can bring to water quality and water flow rates.
  • Incorporating the principles of sustainable drainage systems such as those that exist in Telford and Wrekin into new developments.
  • Increasing the length of open water corridors and areas of connected green space through the urban areas by de-culverting rivers and streams where appropriate and creating riparian semi-natural habitats, for example reedbeds that can slow the current and filter water.
  • Supporting landscape partnerships and the Canal and River Trust with projects to create priority habitats along sections of canals to benefit priority species, for example floating water plantain on still water in disused branches of canals, water vole on modified canal banks and bats in canal tunnels.
  • Protecting areas of undeveloped and unsealed soil in urban areas from development that enables water infiltration.
  • Supporting projects that identify point and diffuse pollution in urban areas, for example through misconnections, illegal discharges and run-off.

SEO 3

SEO 3: Protect from inappropriate development and manage a stock of post-industrial and extractive sites around Telford and the Black Country which exemplify the strong influence that geodiversity has on the landscape, through industrial development and settlement patterns and for their often unique value to biodiversity. Protect and maintain the natural geomorphological features and exposures in the river valleys that can be used for research and education to study past environmental change as well as for recreation.

For example by:

  • Raising awareness through the Local Biodiversity and Geodiversity Action Plans and the planning system of the increasing importance of post-industrial and extractive sites to our understanding of industrial heritage and for the unique habitats that they provide.
  • Working in partnership with local authorities and partners to survey and identify a stock of post-industrial sites, in order to ensure a balance in the numbers of these sites prior to development.
  • Working in partnership with the construction industry and quarry operators to develop schemes and restoration proposals for working sites that provide opportunities for successional colonisation by flora and for the provision of geological exposures, affording opportunities for research and education in biodiversity and geodiversity.
  • Working with local authorities and consultants engaged to maintain the integrity of road cuttings, to ensure that geological exposures are not obscured by hard engineering solutions. This is of particular relevance in the Severn Valley, where landslips are occurring more frequently.
  • Working in partnership with sand and gravel quarry operators to develop restoration proposals to incorporate wetland habitats that could provide floodwater storage areas.
  • Working with the local geodiversity partnerships to designate further Local Geological Sites to assist with the understanding of soils and
    enjoyment of geodiversity and to provide opportunities for recreation and volunteering.
  • Improving access to cuttings, quarries and other geological features by improving footpaths and providing signage and interpretation.
  • Through geodiversity partnerships, encouraging volunteering to train volunteers in surveying techniques and geo-conservation methods, to improve the quality of sites and to retain the knowledge and skills required for their future management.
  • Encouraging appropriate small-scale extraction of stone as this could provide material for repairing traditional buildings and estate walls, thus maintaining the vernacular.

SEO 4

SEO 4: Work in collaboration with the World Heritage Site, English Heritage and the local authorities to implement sustainable solutions to protect and manage the landscape and heritage attributes of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and the wider historic landscape, including the canals, historic ports and bridging towns, finding sustainable solutions to manage visitor pressure, while maintaining high levels of public access for the benefits to the visitor economy and employment.

For example by:

  • Providing sustainable transport solutions for visitors, to alleviate traffic congestion in the World Heritage Site and in the narrow streets of the old ports and bridging towns.
  • Encouraging an integrated transport network between visitor attractions which links with public rights of way and cycle routes.
  • Encouraging more visitors to the open countryside for quiet enjoyment, meeting the needs of diverse audiences and improving health and wellbeing, while reducing the number of visitors to traffic-congested sites.
  • Seeking ways to sustainably manage the demand for water and energy resources and providing recycling facilities at tourist destinations, to minimise the impact on the environment and to raise awareness.
  • Managing the impact of visitors on sites by ensuring that paths are adequately signposted and surfaced to prevent erosion and to divert public access away from sensitive habitats.
  • Considering new technological solutions for the interpretation of habitats, artefacts and historic buildings, describing the role that each has had in the heritage and development of the landscape over time.
  • Restoring the historic canal networks and improving pedestrian access, taking advantage of opportunities to create new circular routes and identify opportunities to improve access by ensuring that paths are well maintained and signposted and that some surfaced paths are provided to ensure easy access walks.
  • Improving the interpretation of the Roman road Watling Street and Roman sites adjacent to the route.

Additional opportunity 1

Additional opportunity 1: Promote sustainable agricultural practices to maintain the food productivity of the plateau, while incorporating semi-natural habitats into arable fields and valley pastures, to protect the quality of the soil and prevent erosion, thus also increasing the contribution to biodiversity, landscape character and climate regulation.

For example by:

  • Establishing tree belts with native species and reinstating prevalent species of hedgerows to provide windbreaks across open countryside, where appropriate in the landscape.
  • Continuing to maintain and reinstate where necessary sandstone walls of estate grounds.
  • Protecting the soil resource by endeavouring to reduce the incidence of bare earth on large open fields or on sloping ground and ensuring good soil management.
  • Managing soil in areas where buried archaeological artefacts are known, to protect the heritage of the NCA.
  • Incorporating semi-natural habitats into arable fields, for example semi- natural grassland and beetle banks which can reduce wind erosion and benefit biodiversity.
  • Incorporating enhancements into arable fields to assist with resource protection and the recovery of farmland birds, for example by the establishment of field margins with nectar-rich flora, the retention of wintering stubbles and incorporation of skylark plots.
  • Planting short rotation coppice and miscanthus at an appropriate scale and only where suitable to the local landscape character, to diversify a largely arable landscape, as exists on the plateau, thus providing shelterbelts.

Additional opportunity 2

Additional opportunity 2: Protect and manage the cultural heritage and the wider historic landscape for its intrinsic value and contributions to sense of history and to sustainable development.

For example by:

  • Conserving and improving the outstanding universal value of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site by managing its landscape, buildings, sites, monuments and collections and adopting sustainable approaches to tourism.
  • Conserving and enhancing the local character and distinctiveness of the area’s riverside towns including Bewdley, Stourport-on-Severn and Bridgnorth by ensuring that new development is well designed and responds to the local vernacular and characteristic materials.
  • Encouraging the sustainable use of historic buildings associated with industrial heritage of the area and especially those identified by English Heritage as being at risk.
  • Increasing awareness and understanding of the heritage interest of Wyre Forest, including its archaeological significance, as well as the archaeological potential of the river valleys, and encouraging an integrated approach to land management options, delivering benefits for the natural and historic environment.
  • Conserving and enhancing the canal network by maintaining and repairing associated structures and buildings, securing good design in all new canal-side development and improving access and interpretation.
  • Encouraging the preparation of conservation management plans for designed landscapes and parklands to support the sustainable
    management of their heritage assets as well as biodiversity, parkland habitats and veteran trees, taking into account the original design intent.
  • Identifying, conserving and enhancing the above- and below-ground archaeological interests within the NCA and where appropriate providing interpretation.
  • Protecting and enhancing the historic built environment within the towns, villages and hamlets of the NCA as well as its historic farm complexes.
  • Maintaining and enhancing the historic landscape character of the NCA, for example through the strengthening of the pattern of enclosure through the reinstatement of lost historical field boundaries.
  • Protecting and sensitively managing the sandstone rock dwellings found along the Severn Valley.