The Mersey Forest

 

The route through the road map was taken as the diagram above with input from local communities and regional stakeholders combined with geospatial data in order to reach a shared vision, followed by the business plan leading to changes in green infrastructure on the ground.

The start of the route was a mapping campaign undertaken to gather information on where and why people loved trees, woodlands and other habitats, would like to see more planted, or improved management. An interactive website (web based consultation tool 3.1) was developed to provide stakeholders with a complete picture of the green infrastructure resource in the case study area. Further analysis and discussion with stakeholders identified the range of functions or services that each parcel of land performs and assisted stakeholders in deciding between alternative interventions.

This information, together with an innovative geospatial mapping methodology (Tool: Green Infrastructure Mapping Methodology 4.1), provided an evidence base upon which to develop and implement local policy. The work has identified key areas for increasing woodland landscape connectivity that can assist not only in helping to reduce habitat fragmentation, but also provide a range of ecosystem services.

The diagnosis above provided an assessment of a study area’s existing green infrastructure, the functions it performs and has the potential to perform, and need for those functions. The next stage of the route map was the design - the development of scenarios for the future of the study area that meet more of its needs, and the selection of a preferred scenario. This was informed both by the diagnosis and by stakeholder engagement. (Co-created ES priority list 5.4)

Finally, as part of the development of the Business Plan, the benefits that will be generated by reaching the five year targets were valued using the Green Infrastructure Valuation Toolkit (6.2), and the results were included in the final document.

This was a larger case study area than the others within GIFT-T!, covering 1,370 km2 and home to 1.7 million people. Given time and budget constraints, it was not possible to contact everyone within The Mersey Forest to ask their opinions, so the “dream sessions” became interactive through the development and use and the interactive website. This, together with a wide press and social media campaign resulted in a reach of about one million people of the 1.7 million people living in The Mersey Forest.

Facts, figures and maps
As part of the diagnosis stage the data used came from The Mersey Forest’s 1992 Landscape Character Assessment); boundaries and wording of the local Landscape Character Assessments; National Character Area boundaries; 2001 proposed woodland cover targets; existing proportion of woodland within the units; specific local policies and strategies; Local Plan Core Strategies where available; the presence of ancient semi-natural woodland; international, national and local wildlife designations.

The Green Infrastructure Mapping Method was used for a full explanation: http://www.merseyforest.org.uk/about-the-mersey-forest/plan/

Input regional stakeholders involved in the process
Consultation with regional stakeholders was necessary in order to gain approval and support from the key agencies, funding partners and UK national government because the National Planning Policy Framework states that: ‘an approved Community Forest plan may be a material consideration in preparing development plans and in deciding planning applications’. For a summary of the consultation: http://www.merseyforest.org.uk/consultation_write_up.pdf
 
Input local communities 
The case study has been underpinned by a robust process of community consultation. The public consultation took place over an extended timescale and used a wide variety of methods, and there were three main stages:

An initial campaign in 2011 was undertaken to raise awareness of the refresh of the Plan in the wider community. In order to capture the public’s attention a “Love Your Woods?” campaign was run, which asked for peoples’ comments and stories about the trees and woodlands in the area.

In 2012, a mapping campaign was undertaken to gather information on where and why people loved trees and woodlands, would like to see more planted, or improved management. This mapping campaign was run both offline and online, where it was supported by a dedicated interactive website.

The interactive map is being kept live, with the intention of including on it an indication of projects planned, under way and completed, especially where these correspond to stated stakeholder desires (http://www.merseyforest.org.uk/about-the-mersey-forest/plan)

In 2013, once the Plan had been drafted, a wider formal consultation lasting for three months took place.

The consultation process on The Mersey Forest Plan recognised that not everybody had access to the website. As such, efforts to contact people without internet access included sending all 94 public libraries a copy of the draft Plan along with a large map of their area, flyers and freepost postcards for responses. A leaflet which pointed people to both the website and local libraries to see the Plan, were sent 576 other locations including community centres, village halls, town halls, council offices, one stop shops, doctors surgeries, sports centres, outdoor tourist attractions and visitors centres.

In total 55 organisations were actively involved, with over 1,600 individual responses.

Shared vision
The Mersey Forest Plan provides the long term vision for the work of the team and partnership – it provides a blueprint to create more woodlands and street trees across our area. It was approved by the UK Government in October 1994 and updated in 2001. Our case study has been to refresh the Plan to bring it up to date as a living green infrastructure document.

The vision has come about through input from local communities and regional stakeholders (as above) and the outcome has been a refreshed Forest Plan which will sets out the shared vision, objectives and our actions for showing what we want to achieve and how we will achieve it.The long term regional ambition plan (The Mersey Forest Plan) was launched with 40 key stakeholders in January 2014. This incorporates the desires of the stakeholders with a plan showing spatial alternatives. The definitive version of the plan is at www.merseyforest.org.uk/plan and 500 hard copies of the plan were printed.

 
 
 
 
 
Green Infrastructure Business Plan
The Business Plan was developed using a bottom-up approach and is a product of continuous interaction with stakeholders. Their opinions were gathered and incorporated into the Mersey Forest Plan, which provides the framework within which the Business Plan was built.

The Business Plan, known locally as the Delivery Plan, is a five year plan with details for this year (14/15) and will be updated on an annual basis. It includes the long term vision and goals (‘key targets’). Key targets are included for the coming year (e.g. 40ha woodland created, 10 new jobs) and for the next five years. The definitive version of the plan is at http://www.merseyforest.org.uk/mersey_forest_delivery_plan_final_draft.pdf and 500 hard copies were printed and distributed.

Green Infrastructure Business Cases
For the year 20014/5 there are 23 individual business cases included within the business plan. These came about through a collaborative process, following directly from the shared vision, the long term ambition plan and to the business plan. Each of these and are being delivered at present and will realise green infrastructure improvements as detailed in the ‘Description column.

For example: www.merseyforest.org.uk/bigtreeplant

GI changes
Monitoring of previous delivery is reported in the Business Plan, and future monitoring will be reported at www.merseyforest.org.uk/monitoring, along similar lines. For example, in 2013/4 there were 20,531 trees planted, 543 metres of hedgerow planted and 993 hectares of habitat restored.