Protecting Green Spaces in Bristol and Bath

Adam Chlebik

Avon Wildlife Trust is working in partnership with Councils in Bristol and Bath as part of our mission to restore 30% of our land and sea for wildlife by 2030. Not only will this secure vital habitats, but it will also ensure everyone has access to precious green space.

Bristol 

In February 2020, we joined city partners in Bristol in declaring an ecological emergency. This powerful step was made in recognition of the accelerating loss of wildlife and resulting risks to the ecosystems that underpin life on earth.   

Together, we have set out a pioneering vision in our One City Ecological Emergency Strategy. Our mission is to halt the destruction of habitats in Bristol, and protect 30% of the city’s land for wildlife by 2030. We are already working with the Council in updating the city’s maps to identify where habitat improvements would have the most benefit for wildlife. The pandemic has proven the importance of this – not only for nature, but also for communities, who find sanctuary in the green spaces near them.  

Bristol is facing a number of emergencies at the same time, including the ecological emergency, the climate emergency and a housing crisis, which has led the Council to set ambitious targets for house building.      

Unfortunately,  a number of Bristol’s sites of nature conservation importance were designated for housing back in 2014, before the ecological emergency was fully understood. 

Avon Wildlife Trust does not believe that building on important wildlife habitats is the answer to Bristol’s housing crisis. We need to find solutions that enable us to address the climate, nature and housing emergencies at the same time. In the longer-term that is likely to mean building higher density zero carbon housing in existing residential areas. 

Once land has been allocated for housing, it is very difficult for Councils to reverse these decisions, particularly given compulsory government targets for the supply of housing land. Nevertheless, we are working with Bristol City Council to look at the options for protecting these habitats where possible.  

Brislington Meadows – this is an important area of wildlife-rich grassland where local residents see foxes and deer and a wide range of birds. It is regrettable that the decision was made to develop this land for housing in 2014. We are asking Bristol City Council to review the decision to develop Brislington Meadows – or, if this is not possible, to ensure that any development delivers a net gain for wildlife.  

Bonnington Walk – development work has already started at this site, which once contained a large area of scrub that would have supported rare species such as the song thrush. However, there is some good news: the Council have designated part of the site as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, protecting it from development and have altered plans for the development to ensure it delivers a net gain for wildlife.  

Western Meadows – this is an important habitat for a wide variety of birds, mammals and rare wildflowers on the slopes between Novers Hill and Hartcliffe Way. The Council have assured us that there are no foreseeable plans for development on their land in this area and we are in discussion with them about whether it is possible to protect it from development. 

Bath 

There is a similar situation in Bath where the Council declared a nature emergency in July 2020.  

Tufa Field – is part of the Stirtingale Farm Site of Nature Conservation Importance, which was allocated for housing in the 2007 Local Plan. It contains rare limestone “tufa” springs and supports a wide range of wildlife including deer and slow worms. The site is owned by Bath and North East Somerset Council, who are planning to develop it through their arms-length housing development company and ensure biodiversity net gain through habitat improvements nearby. Avon Wildlife Trust is not convinced that the proposed habitat improvements would effectively offset the loss of habitats at the Tufa Field and are asking the Council to reverse their decision to develop this site. 

If you want to get involved with protecting the green spaces of Bristol and Bath, why not contact your councillor to make your views clear? You could sign the local petitions that are calling for development to be halted on local wildlife sites at Western Slopes and Tufa Field.