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 improving the biodiversity and amenity of sites or footpaths in the Emerald Network, particularly if for the benefit of people with a disability, will be supported.

Development proposals that would result in a deterioration in the wildlife value of a site in the Emerald Network, or that would damage the connectivity of sites in the Emerald Network, will be refused, unless there are substantial public benefits that outweigh the loss or harm. If this loss or harm cannot be avoided, then appropriate mitigation measures must be included in the proposal.

4.99 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. These sites comprise 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. 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.

4.100 The Emerald Network sites are shown on Proposals Map 3. 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. The sites are connected by public rights of way or pavements. Durham County Council provides a ‘Definitive Public Rights of Way’ map online. 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, e.g. Moorhouse Wood and Borehole Wood.

Justification

4.101 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.

4.102 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.

4.103 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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