The site, which measures 170 hectares, will showcase sustainable change in land use in an effort to tackle the climate and ecological crises. Dorset Wildlife Trust’s plans for the site are still being confirmed, but the overall aim is for it to be a place where wildlife can flourish and people can connect with nature. It is hoped that healthy ecosystems will be created to provide homes for wildlife that is in critical decline in the UK. It will also help battle the climate crisis by storing carbon in wetlands, soils and plants.
The trust is involving the local community with planning for the site to ensure their voices are heard and they are able to benefit from regular contact with nature.
Chief executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust, Brian Bleese, said: “Given a chance, nature can play a key role in addressing climate change and environmental degradation. Our wildlife is also declining in both diversity and abundance and we need to make more space for nature. The acquisition of this land gives us a huge opportunity to bring back nature on a large scale and we look forward to working with the local community to involve people of all backgrounds and abilities in learning about and enjoying wildlife, while helping it to prosper.”
The purchase was made possible with help from Julia Davies, founder of We have the POWER, who led on the purchase. This gave Dorset Wildlife Trust time to secure funds from several legacies left by its members and supporters, as well as significant investments from BCP Council and Dorset Council. Contributions from the councils were sourced from the Community Infrastructure Levy, to mitigate the effect of additional nitrates entering Poole Harbour as a result of new housing and tourism developments.
Nitrates in waterways are a problem if they reach high levels as they cause algal blooms, which severely damage wildlife ecosystems. In Poole Harbour, nitrates mainly come from use of fertilisers and treated sewage. To make sure nitrate levels do not increase in the harbour, Dorset Wildlife Trust would like to see a move away from intensive farming combined with natural recovery solutions such as creating new wetland habitat on the site.
Deputy leader and portfolio holder for Regeneration, Economy and Strategic Planning for BCP Council, Councillor Philip Broadhead, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to go above and beyond mitigating the environmental impact of delivering 2,076 essential new homes within the Poole Local Plan area, which is part of our larger drive to act at scale and build 15,000 new homes across the conurbation. With this single investment, funded by the developers themselves, we vastly exceed the necessary area of agricultural land required to be repurposed as part of our protection of the Poole Special Harbour Protection Area.
“Personally, I’m also hugely excited by Dorset Wildlife Trust’s plans: I can’t wait to see the positive effect they have on our already outstanding natural environment.”
Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, Councillor Ray Bryan, said: “Our recent Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy consultation clearly demonstrated that residents expect our countryside to play a vital role in how we address the challenges of climate change in the future. These ambitious plans are not only a great example of how we can work toward a sustainable balance between the natural environment and the needs of Dorset’s communities, but also what can be achieved when we all work toward a common goal.”
Julia Davies said: “To help nature recover we need to find innovative ways of helping conservation groups like Dorset Wildlife Trust acquire land for nature. Fundraising takes time and so I’m delighted to have been able to get the ball rolling on this acquisition and am excited to see the site develop as a showcase for how nature can be given the space it needs whilst providing rural job creation and continuing to play a role in food production through free grazing animals and helping people reconnect with nature.”
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