Malmesbury revisited


The last time I was in Malmesbury there was a Fieldfare looking over the building site; this time there was a Chiffchaff.  Whether the Chiffchaff’s song was celebrating the activity on the site of what will be a new Waitrose store is difficult to know, but there was certainly a lot going on with around 40 workpeople (almost all men) driving large trucks, digging, carrying and hammering.

As winter has moved into spring the outlines of the new Waitrose store are springing up but I was visiting, with others, to check on progress with the wildlife aspects of the site.  To be fair, it’s a bit difficult to tell by looking at what is on the ground at the moment – it’s a building site still!  But we looked at where the grassland and scrub will go, and heard that plans are still firmly in place.  We saw where there would be wild flower plantings on the gabion wall (and heard that a local school had been contacted to play a part in this) and we looked at designs for a Swift tower and stood where it is intended to be.

I heard that Swift Conservation had given advice and that the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust had been contacted too, as well as there being liaison with the Malmesbury River Valleys Trust.

2I love learning things and was interested to hear about a weakness in the planning system. Have you heard of BREEAM – the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method? It appears to be the industry standard and planning authorities use it to judge aspects of a development’s environmental credentials.  So the planners may look more kindly on an application that states it will get a BREEAM ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ certificate.  The snag in the system, I am told, is that many developments never follow through and get the certificate – and the planners don’t ever (hardly ever) check.  How daft is that?

Now, if you do check the buildings that have final BREEAM certificates in the retail sector, because I have, you will find that Waitrose look pretty good because there are only three (out of 403) retail buildings, issued with final BREEAM certificates, that get the top grading of ‘outstanding’ and all three are Waitrose stores (in Stratford (London), Bracknell and Cowes).  If anyone, for example Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Asda, has a different take on this then please let me know, but Waitrose look pretty good to me.

As far as the wildlife enhancements on this Malmesbury site are concerned then we are still at the ‘great plans and good intentions’ stage of things.  It seems to me that the builders (Simons) and Waitrose are heading in the right direction – but it is delivery that is important (as with BREEAM) and so I’ll be keeping you in touch with what actually happens here over the next few months.


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7 Replies to “Malmesbury revisited”

  1. Does BREEAM still only cover the physical fabric and operation of buildings or does it cover biodiversity in the grounds or on the roof as well now? The Wildlife Trusts' Biodiversity Benchmark accreditation is a meaningful certification for businesses and certification should mean that there are genuine and lasting benefits for wildlife. Are Waitrose going to apply for certification I wonder? Outside of retail, I know the Met Office has achieved it for their estate- given how hot they are on biodiversity they could probably give some useful advice to other government departments about what they should be doing too. As you suggest, it's all about the follow up and ensuring systems are in place for any habitats created to be properly maintained in the years to come.

  2. Re your Waitrose work. Under the idea of “he who pays the piper calls the tune” I looked up the websites of the major supermarkets to see what their environmental requirement of their supplying farmers were. Waitrose is top with its own farm. Tesco’s had nothing much on its site that I can find. Sainsbury has a farming conference (every year?) It has energy saving awards at the conference. Maybe it should have a conservation award. Like the FWAG Silver Lapwing award. At least it should have some conservation stands/advice at the conference –RSPB –FWAG, Seems a missed opportunity. (Mark?)
    This look around also shows up the plethora of different “conservation grades”: (something for a future blog?) Waitrose has “The WildCare scheme (is) based on a set of environmental standards that have been compiled in conjunction with The Wildlife Trust. The scheme links with DEFRA on agricultural policy in consideration of local, county and national Biodiversity Action Plans.

    At Malmesbury the Gaboion wall sounds ideal for lizards if it is near the bit of grassland on the site. As you say delivery is important. If a site is routinely managed sympathetically for wildlife “leaving room for nature” in unused corners and edges rather than tidied up too much. The RSPB moto of “home for nature” suggests specific areas to me rather than incorporating it around and through our lives.
    Anyway back to the lizards since I leave space for nature I am sure I can spare a few lizards that I garden, rather than wait and hope they arrive/return to the building site.

  3. The damage is done at Malmesbury but there is a battle brewing in Salisbury where Sainsbury's are planning to build new store on a greenfield site on the A36 opposite the Tesco roundabout. They have admitted at a public meeting that the site is the only one where they can compete with Tesco - whereas Salisbury folk express preferences for other sites including Fugglestone Red on the Devizes road - where the north side of the city is poorly served by the Sheds.

    Why is this worth having a fight over? Well - the greenfield site is wet pasture on the Avon floodplain, much of it under water recently. It has SAC status - R Avon - but isn't part of the famous Harnham Water Meadows. The developers have worked up a scheme promising to create new wetland within an area of existing wetland to hoodwink the LA planning numpties. As there is a promise of many jobs and improvements to traffic flow (dream on) I'm pessimistic about the chances of local opposition stopping this development, even though the public response is a unanimous "Not no, but not there!"

    We we are doomed to eternal traffic congestion anyway, thanks to Salisbury's location at the confluence of five rivers, and with CPRE helping to kick a bypass into the long grass forever - so some more is unwelcome even though we are accustomed to the A36 linear carpark.

    No matter, look, if it goes ahead it will be quicker for the Cobbs to shop in Romsey. At that Waitrose.

    1. filbert - the damage done at Malmesbury in terms of biodiversity is arguably either very small or potentially, if things go well, negative damage (ie a gain!).

      If the Sainsbury's site is SAC then it really can't stand much chance of going ahead - even under this government. If it is near the SAC then it will have to prove that thee is no impact to the SAC.

      1. The damage done at Malmesbury is aesthetic - for which there appears to be little or no weight given and unlike the entry to Malmesbury the A36 approach to Salisbury is already an unattractive gateway to the city. The Sainsbury store would interrupt the view across water meadows and willow carr to the sewage treatment works and the SDH. No mileage there I fear.

        As for designations - looks like I clutched at a straw. Revisiting the MAGIC mapping the legend for R Avon SAC appears on the Sainsbury site but this applies only to the adjacent Avon stream - the site itself is entirely within an ESA boundary. The book of words from the River Avon SAC planning forum holds out some hope on the grounds of potential impact, but I'm not holding my breath.

        I draw comfort from the flowering of Geum rivale and toothwort in the forest.


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