Policy G3

Policy G3: Creation of the Emerald Network

An Emerald Network is proposed which comprises sites of wildlife interest within Our Neighbourhood linked by public rights of way or pavements. These sites are:

  1. Observatory Hill; and
  2. Flass Vale; and
  3. Wharton Park; and
  4. Aykley Heads; and
  5. Hoppers Wood; and
  6. The Sands riverbanks; and
  7. St Margaret’s cemetery and allotments; and
  8. Peninsular Woodlands; and
  9. The Racecourse riverbanks; and
  10. Pelaw Wood (the part that lies in Our Neighbourhood); and
  11. Houghall/Maiden Castle; and
  12. Hollinside Wood, Great High Wood, Little High Wood, Blaid’s Wood, dene connecting to Low Burnhall Wood; and
  13. Durham University Botanic Gardens; and
  14. Low Burnhall Wood; and
  15. Farewellhall Wood (the part that lies in Our Neighbourhood); and
  16. Baxter Wood (the part that lies in Our Neighbourhood).

Proposals for the purpose of improving the biodiversity of sites in the Emerald Network will be supported.

Proposals for the purpose of improving the amenity of sites in the Emerald Network, or for improving existing footpaths within or between these sites, or providing additional footpaths within or between these sites, particularly for improving accessibility for people with a disability, will be supported as long as they cause no harm to the biodiversity of these sites.

Development proposals that would cause significant harm to the biodiversity of a site or footpath in the Emerald Network, or the connectivity of sites in the Emerald Network, will be refused, unless this significant harm:

  1. can be avoided by locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts; or
  2. adequately mitigated; or
  3. as a last resort, compensated for.

4.103 The Emerald Network comprises designated wildlife sites (such as Local Nature Reserves, Local Wildlife Sites, and Ancient Woodland Sites), key green sites (such as parks and gardens), and the River Wear and the riverbanks. The sites are connected by public rights of way or pavements. In some cases the existing PROW or pavement may skirt the site rather than provide access into the site. Other Local Wildlife sites in Our Neighbourhood have not been included in the Emerald Network as they are not accessible by public rights of way or pavements, e.g. Moorhouse Wood and Borehole Wood. This policy does not provide public access to these sites if such access is currently restricted by the site owners. Any provision of public access to a site is at the discretion of the owner. This policy does not confer extra designations on these sites and should be contrasted with Policy G2 which does convey an additional designation on a small number of very special sites. The Emerald Network is only part of the green infrastructure within Our Neighbourhood. The Emerald Network also links to a number of sites of wildlife interest that lie immediately adjacent to Our Neighbourhood. These comprise: part of Baxter Wood, part of Farewellhall Wood, Old Durham Gardens, part of Pelaw Wood, Frankland Wood and Kepier Wood.

4.104 The purpose of the Emerald Network is to encourage people (residents, visitors and tourists) to visit key wildlife sites in Our Neighbourhood for the leisure and health benefits they provide. The ‘Looking Forwards’ initiative 6 outlines how the Emerald Network could be set up.

Justification

4.105 The idea for an Emerald Network developed from discussion between the Forum and the Friends of Flass Vale (comprising a membership of 250 people). It builds on policy R13 ‘River Wear Walkway’ from the City of Durham Local Plan saved policies and incorporates policies E5, E26 and T21. Policy R13 was developed by the Council into the idea of a Necklace Park but this idea was never implemented.

4.106 The Emerald Network will create a network of sites having wildlife interest lying within or adjacent to Our Neighbourhood. Existing rights of way will be used to develop corridors between the sites so as to enhance biodiversity and connectivity between them. The benefits of the Emerald Network include:

  1. improving the image of the City by proving an extra tourist attraction
  2. providing a leisure asset for local people, and thus improving their well being
  3. counteracting the fragmentation of wildlife habitat within the City: fragmentation has been shown to reduce plant and animals populations to levels where they risk becoming extinct
  4. promoting and improving access rights and the Public Rights of Way network through the City
  5. maintaining links with the wider countryside and seeking to improve wildlife corridors to designated sites such as the Deerness Valley, Bearpark and Croxdale Woods and Brasside/Low Newton wetlands.

4.107 The Emerald Network would complement other trails being set up by Durham County Council or other organisations.

Proposals Map 3: Emerald Network. The boundary of Our Neighbourhood is indicated and shows which sites are in the Network and which adjacent sites the Network links to.

Next section: Policy G4: Enhancing the Beneficial Use of the Green Belt

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