Project background

2017 saw the publication of a range of increasingly concerning reports which highlighted the plight of our environment and biodiversity, adding to an already extensive catalogue of such evidence. Written by a coalition of more than 50 leading wildlife charities and research organisations, including the RSPB, the State of Nature report identified significant species declines in the UK and that the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, a worrying state not just for our wildlife but also for people.

Given these challenges of living in an increasingly urban environment with ever more fragmented spaces for nature, urban and countryside parks are important as spaces for nature and for people to connect with nature. Historically viewed as amenity spaces our parks are utilised more and more as multi-use spaces; acting as venues for large events, sports and fitness activities, community events, and increasingly spaces for conservation of wildlife.

idverde and the RSPB

In 2015 idverde was awarded the contract to deliver the London Borough of Bromley’s Parks Management Service. This included the management of Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), Local Nature Reserves (LNR) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). With increased responsibility for sites of importance for nature and biodiversity as well as for community focussed activities, idverde has been developing innovative schemes and programmes of work to safeguard biodiversity in Bromley, despite a challenging economic climate. One such innovation is the partnership with the RSPB launched in 2017.

The innovative approach sees a dedicated member of the RSPB team based in Bromley working with idverde, to help deliver the Council’s Parks, Greenspace and Countryside Strategy. The work underlines the commitment to maintain, enhance and restore Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and other green spaces for wildlife.

The initial 18-month partnership is playing a key role in helping Bromley’s parks, and other community spaces such as allotments, become greener places that benefit both people and wildlife, and which will create a green legacy for future generations. The partnership allows idverde to incorporate RSPB expertise and best practice in the management of London Borough of Bromley sites, both urban and countryside.

idverde and the RSPB work closely to ensure the Borough remains vibrant and welcoming to people, as well as serving as an important and valuable natural habitat supporting a wide range of plants and animals. A key element of this work is creating opportunities for everyone in the area to discover the wildlife and fantastic variety of species living in their neighbourhood.

Chris Corrigan, the RSPB’s director for England, says of the partnership: “Our natural world is vanishing; across the UK our wildlife is in decline, with some species being pushed to the brink of extinction. We need urgent action to reverse these declines. We also need new ideas and ways of working, and this is what we are doing in Bromley with idverde so that the places we live and visit are also welcoming to wildlife.

“Every gardener knows how the right mix of plants can encourage birds, bees, and other creatures into any garden. Doing this on a bigger scale involves a bit more planning, but this is exactly what is happening in Bromley. Our partnership is bringing together the knowledge and expertise needed to ensure London’s biggest and greenest borough is welcoming to nature. And with the support of the people that live in the area we have an exciting opportunity to make something special that other areas will look to copy and learn from in the future.”

Although only a few months old, the partnership has yielded clear benefits during 2017: the RSPB biodiversity advisor provides technical support to the wider idverde team in managing all sites for biodiversity; not just SSSIs and LNRs, but also amenity spaces, allotments, and urban sites, while supporting engagement and environmental education activities. This includes (but is not limited to) ensuring that management sites demonstrate the most contemporary and innovative practices in habitat/species management, and training idverde colleagues and community groups in biodiversity related topics with a view to empowering them into taking positive actions for biodiversity. The partnership has also yielded less tangible benefits such as exposing the wider idverde team to RSPB experts in their field.

One example of such benefits is the input of contemporary best practice into idverde’s management planning for habitats. For example, idverde is currently in the process of reviewing a number of woodland management plans. Working alongside the RSPB, contemporary measures such as managing woodlands to be resilient to climate change and emerging infectious disease are being embedded within these.

Steven Lofting, the RSPB Biodiversity Advisor working alongside idverde’s Bromley team, says: “Bromley is London’s largest and greenest borough. The potential for our sites both within London and the wider landscape for biodiversity is fantastic. idverde has demonstrated a clear commitment to biodiversity, both within Bromley and the wider company, and the opportunities presented by working in tandem to improve our habitats for birds, invertebrates and other taxonomic groups across the local landscape are hugely exciting.”

What’s next?

In 2018 effort will be focussed on turning advice and consultation into best practice on the ground. With “survey season” on us biological monitoring of sites and species throughout spring and summer is critical to informing the management of sites. With support from the RSPB idverde is developing methodologies to do so which are efficient and effective. With the best will in the world it is not possible to survey everything everywhere, so it is important to prioritise the “what, where, and why” of survey efforts.

idverde Conservation & Education Development Manager, John Pemberton, comments: “Despite the partnership still being in its infancy, we have already seen significant benefits to working with the RSPB. The level of engagement from the RSPB in our work and the exposure to expert cutting-edge advice on the management of our habitats and species has been fantastic. In 2018 we are initiating some small-scale projects based upon input and support from the RSPB, such as wetland restoration, heathland restoration, and broadening our biological monitoring programmes. Many of our parks are green oases within a larger more urban landscape. As a company idverde manage not just parks but a wide range of green spaces allowing us to really look at biodiversity in the borough holistically, and not limited to our designated SSSIs and nature reserves.”

There are other exciting projects on the horizon. After specialist consultation from RSPB Land Management Advisors, critical heathland habitat management on Bromley’s Keston Common will continue alongside bog restoration, as well as wetland restoration on Local Nature Reserve, Darrick and Newstead Woods. The aims of these projects are to restore declining and valuable habitat, many of which are largely absent in London.

With idverde and the RSPB’s partnership in Bromley set to continue into 2019, the future for Bromley’s wildlife has surely never looked brighter.