Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: Biodiversity Action Plan

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a major new asset for London and the nation and the catalyst for large scale regeneration of an area which has hitherto been one of the most deprived in the UK. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a unique, short lived, event, however, since then the area has continued to develop into a significant sporting, social, economic, cultural and environmental hub for local, metropolitan, national and international visitors. 

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The Olympic Park is also part of a wider vision to regenerate the Lower Lea Valley, East London and the Thames Gateway. In the long term, the Olympic Park forms part of an extended network of interconnected green spaces -green infrastructure – linking he Lee Valley Regional Park in the north with the Thames to the south and connecting with new and existing parks in the new communities that will emerge to the east and west. The new network of wildlife rich parks will encourage more people to use and appreciate these green spaces which in turn will promote healthier, more active lifestyles. The extended green infrastructure network will help this part of London adapt to climate change.

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The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is one of a suite of documents produced by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) which also included the Urban Design & Landscape Framework (UDLF) and its appendices, the Waterspace Master Plan and Lighting Strategy which informed the design of the Olympic Park. These documents, in combination with the Parklands and Public Realm design, provided a framework for the Parklands and Public Realm Application package submitted in 2008.

Planning Condition OD.0.11 required that the Biodiversity Action Plan, would be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval.  The condition goes on to state: ‘This shall clearly identify the areas of recognised wildlife habitat to be provided and the means by which these will be maintained’ and gives the reason for the condition as being: ‘To help achieve biodiversity objectives and protect habitats and species’.

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The Biodiversity Action Plan was divided into Habitat Action Plans which identified areas of specific interest – specifically, built environment, parks, squares & amenity space, allotments, brownfield habitats, species-rich grasslands, trees & scrub, wet woodland,  rivers, reedbed and ponds.  In addition the plan included Species Action Plans – including terrestrial invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and bats.

Management: Standards for the management of the Olympic Park follow the Green Flag scheme, which requires that parks are safe, secure, well maintained, clean, sustainable, take account of conservation and heritage, involve the community and are well promoted.  The management of the Olympic Park also relates to the Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan, to ensure that all the Habitat Action Plans and Species Action Plans are conscientiously implemented.

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Monitoring: In order to measure the effectiveness of the BAP it is essential that regular monitoring is undertaken. This is important to ensure that objectives are met, but monitoring also provides valuable feedback, allowing managers to fine tune their efforts to establish and improve habitats and help species of conservation concern to thrive.

Since the drafting of the Biodiversity Action Plan It has been agreed that the Landscape Group would be the contractor to provide landscape maintenance and cleaning for the whole park until 2024 in an alliance with Balfour Beatty Workplace, which provides facilities management. The combined contract is worth £6m a year with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park management contract seen as an opportunity to redefine parks management.  Recently staff and students on the post-grad Landscape Architecture courses here at Kingston University were introduced to the continuing maintenance taking place as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is transformed.  The group was taken on a tour of the site by Alistair Bayford, Park Manager and general manager at the Landscape Group.

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Images: Alistair Bayford, Park Manager, Landscape Group and Ales Seitl, Kingston university

Text source: Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan, Olympic Delivery Authority.

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