The natural environment of Basingstoke and Deane

The borough council covers an area of about 245 square miles, the vast majority of which is countryside.

North Wessex Downs AONB

About 80 square miles towards the western edge of the borough is designated as part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and extends into other districts beyond the borough boundary.

The AONB is a national designation that seeks to protect the special qualities of the area.

The council is a member of the Council of Partners for the AONB, which also has an executive management team responsible for developing and coordinating the various activities and initiatives. Objectives and aims for the area are set out in a five year management plan for the AONB, covering issues including land management, biodiversity, historic environment, sustainability, development and communities. The latest plan for 2009 to 2014 is now due for review by the AONB management team, and a new version covering 2014 to 2019 will be available from Autumn 2014.

Green Infrastructure Strategy

Green Infrastructure (GI) is defined as an interconnected network of natural areas and other green open spaces that is integral to the health and quality of life of people in local communities and which supports and enhances natural and ecological processes.

It benefits the public and the environment by providing attractive environments for outdoor recreation and exercise; a sense of place; biodiversity enhancement; and other environmental benefits such as natural drainage to reduce flooding and helping us adapt to climate change.  As a concept, it can be used to help protect and plan the natural environment.

Overall, the borough has a very good range of green infrastructure assets, including Green Flag awarded parks in the heart of Basingstoke, the Forestry Commission’s Basing Wood to the north of Popley, some of the country’s most precious wildlife habitats, as well as an extensive network of public rights of way, and publicly accessible open countryside areas.

The types of GI and their benefits, however, are not evenly distributed and the maximum benefits are not always realised. To help address this, the council has produced a Green Infrastructure Strategy.

The vision underpinning this strategy is to provide a planned and managed network of green infrastructure across Basingstoke and Deane which:

  • provides residents with adequate local access to a network of high quality parks, open spaces, green links and corridors
  • protects the health and attractiveness of our natural environment, enhancing those areas which can make a positive contribution to biodiversity
  • allows the natural environment to thrive alongside the built environment.

In order to achieve this, the strategy aims to:

  • manage, protect and restore existing green infrastructure
  • expand and reconnect green infrastructure where there is an identified deficit or where housing growth is planned and additional provision is needed.

The strategy was adopted in July 2013 and a copy of the document and plans can be accessed below.

Landscape Assessment

We embrace a diverse pattern of landscapes, including rolling chalk downland, pastoral river valleys, historic parkland, remnants of ancient forests and intimate mosaics of lowland farmland and woodland, with a scattering of farms, villages and hamlets, and a few larger settlements including Basingstoke. These areas are divided into 20 distinct landscape character areas which are described in detail in the Landscape Assessment.

The Landscape Assessment Main Report was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) in July 2001 and has been used in helping the Borough Council to increase the effectiveness of development plan policies for the landscape, including formulation of a new landscape policy in the Local Plan Review.

The assessment was carried out in accordance with the Countryside Agency's national guidance on landscape assessment, which gives more emphasis to the protection of landscape character and features that make one landscape different from another, rather than better or worse. A fully integrated approach to landscape assessment was undertaken, drawing together historic, ecological and landscape elements into the characterisation process.

The assessment provides the basis for responses to development proposals affecting the landscape of the Borough and assists the Council and other bodies involved in making decisions affecting the future of the landscape. It also provided an objective basis for the preparation of the Countryside Design Summary for the Borough, and Village Design Statements.

For further information, please contact the Natural Environment team on 01256 844844 or e-mail communityservices@basingstoke.gov.uk

Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy (Living Landscapes)

Protecting and enhancing the quality of wildlife habitats and the landscape have been identified as a high priority within the Council Plan. There are a number of factors threaten aspects of our environment, including:

  • global climate change
  • the lack of appropriate habitat management for individual sites
  • declining populations of many species nationally, with some at high risk of extinction.

landscape character is affected by:

  • the loss of traditional rural land management practices
  • the introduction of suburbanising features into the countryside
  • the use of non-local building styles and materials.

Living Landscapes describes the features, landscape characteristics and species most in need of attention within the borough and sets out the council's approach to protecting and improving the natural environment, supported by a three-year action plan.

The current strategy was approved in August 2014 and can be downloaded below. Paper copies can be ordered by contacting the Natural Environment team by emailing communityservices@basingstoke.gov.uk, phoning 01256 845261, or in writing Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council, Civic Offices, London Road, Basingstoke, RG21 4AH.

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© 2014 – 2016 Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council