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  • James Webster, Director of Ecology, EHM Ltd

Heathrow Biodiversity Legacy Award winner Princes Lakes

In 2019 we were fortunate enough to win the CIRIA's BIG Biodiversity Challenge Biodiversity Legacy Award for our ongoing management of one of the Heathrow Biodiversity sites, Princes lakes. The award was for the management of a 60 consisting of lakes, woodland, landscaped areas and a number of buildings acquired by Heathrow Airport in 2012. The purchase of the site was an operational decision to help improve Heathrow’s extensive surface water treatment process however we also recognised the long-term potential that the site could have for local wildlife. The site was placed within the existing Heathrow Biodiversity Management System and had soon been awarded the Wildlife Trusts prestigious Biodiversity Benchmark Award.

On taking over Princes Lakes, we implemented a long-term Biodiversity Management Plan including woodland management, creating and maintaining wildflower rich meadows, grazing with the help of Surrey Wildlife Trust livestock, wetland habitat creation and invasive species control. We also carried out a number of community engagement activities over the years working with local schools, charities and scout groups as well as staff from the airport. This management lead to an increase in species. Over the years we have seen an increase in certain species found at the site in particular the diversity of floral species. Species found on the site include Nathusius Pipistrelle, Smew, Bee Orchid, Grass Snakes, Wasp Spider and Emerald Damselfly.

The management of Princes lakes forms part of the Biodiversity Management of 170 ha of off-airport land. For this management we have received and retained the Biodiversity Benchmark Award for over 12 years. We manage 13 sites for biodiversity enhancement containing a variety of locally and regionally important habitats. We have recorded over 3800 different species across the sites including a species of Fungus new to science. The management of the biodiversity sites is collaborative approach headed by the Heathrow Engineering Environment Team specialist consultants, Ecology & Habitat Management Ltd, are used to provide expert advice and management. The inspiration for this management came from the desire of the Environment team at Heathrow to manage our assets in a responsible way. We are driven by our cooperate social responsibility whose business operation incorporates a large area of landholdings. We are passionate about continuing to manage our sites to ensure biodiversity protection and enhancement in the long term.

Since winning the award we have continued to management Prices Lakes for the benefit of biodiversity enhancement. Despite 2020 being a challenging year we managed to continue on site management and monitoring, in a COVID safe way. We continued to expand the grazing programme working closely with Surrey Wildlife Trust we used their Belted Galloway Cattle to graze across the site. These distinctive black and white banded cattle provide an excellent habitat management service helping to created structurally diverse habitats that benefit a range of species. We have also continued to control non-native species and have stepped up our management of Floating Pennywort which we have seen dramatically reduced year the past year. The number of species found on the site continues to increase and we managed to conduct a range of ecology surveys of the past year.

Winning the legacy award has provided a real benefit to the team and helps us all to recognise the hard work carried out. We were extremely excited to win the BIG award and look forward to working with CIRIA in the future.

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