Heathlands Residential Scheme, Buckley

Heathlands is the name of a 300 house development on a former claypit at Buckley, North Wales.  The site had been abandoned and was unsafe, notably with the presence of a 1ha steep-sided lagoon.  Great crested newts had colonised whilst the site was still in active use for brick-making in the 1990’s and the site had been designated as a Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation.  There was no viable restoration plan and no obvious means of bringing the site back into beneficial use.

Working for Redrow Homes, TEP designed and implemented a detailed restoration scheme to enable the infilling of the unsafe lagoon, the re-vegetation of the moonscape landscape and conversion to a multi-pond nature reserve, financed by the creation of 300 new family homes.  Long term sustainability of the nature reserve was secured through the financing of a warden and management plan.

The scheme was implemented in phases, with the first phase of pond creation in 2009, followed by lagoon infilling in 2011/12, with the final phase of pond creation and hydrological connections completed with defects rectification by 2015.

TEP provided the following:

• Ecological surveys
• Landscape masterplan
• Environmental Impact Assessment
• Negotiations with CCW (now NRW), and Flintshire Council
• Great crested newt mitigation
• Landscape design for the nature reserve and public open space
• Habitat management plan

The scheme was highly collaborative, and TEP worked alongside WYG (engineering and hydrology consultants responsible for earthworks and SUDS design), Natural Resources Wales who were a proactive regulator in respect of Habitats Regulations and great crested newts, providing guidance and support to all parties.

North East Wales Wildlife is a local wildlife charity who manage the nature reserve, working alongside Redrow Homes and Trinity Estates who look after the housing development and public landscapes.

The project is an exemplar of sustainability; as a derelict and unsafe liability is now an asset of ecological value.  The water cycle is complete within the site through a) rainwater harvesting b) feeding interlinked ponds connected to c) a central soakaway.  Earthworks involved no removal or import of bulk fill.

The scheme demonstrates clarity of vision over the long term with a determination from the client and the ecologist to overcome technical, planning and legislative obstacles.  The scheme is accompanied by long term management and monitoring arrangements to secure the ecological success of the regeneration.

The scheme won the Landscape Institute’s 2017 Award for Science Management and Stewardship. It also received Highly Commended at IEMA’s 2019 Sustainability Awards for Biodiversity and Environmental Net Gain and Commended at CIEEM’s 2019 Awards for Best Practice – Large-scale Mitigation.