Obstacles and solutions to maximising urban biodiversity throughout the lifecycles of major developments in England

  • Helen Barber

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Thus far, achieving net biodiversity gains through major urban developments has been neither common nor straightforward - despite the presence of incentives, regulatory contexts, and ubiquitous practical guidance tools. A diverse set of obstructions, occurring within different spatial, temporal and actor hierarchies, are experienced by practitioners and render the realisation of maximised biodiversity, a rarity. This research aims to illuminate why this is so, and what needs to be changed to rectify the situation. To determine meaningful findings and conclusions, capable of assisting applied contexts and accommodating a diverse range of influences, a ‘systems approach’ was adopted. This approach led to the use of a multi-strategy research methodology, to identify the key obstructions and solutions to protecting and enhancing biodiversity - incorporating the following methods: action research, a questionnaire to local government ecologists, interviews and personal communications with leading players, and literature reviews. Nevertheless, ‘case studies’ are the predominant research method, the focus being a ‘nested’ case study looking at strategic issues of the largest regeneration area in Europe ‘the Thames Gateway’, and the largest individual mixeduse mega-development in the UK (at the time of planning consent) ‘Eastern Quarry 2’ - set within the Gateway. A further key case study, focussing on the Central Riverside development in Sheffield, identifies the merits of competition and partnership. The nested cases, theories and findings show that the strategic scale - generally relating to governance and prioritisation - impacts heavily upon individual development sites. It also enables the identification of various processes, mechanisms and issues at play on the individual development sites, which primarily relate to project management, planning processes, skills and transdisciplinary working, innovative urban biodiversity design capabilities, incentives, organisational cultures, and socio-ecological resilience. From these findings a way forward is mapped, spanning aspects from strategic governance to detailed project management.
Date of Award31 May 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter D Hedges (Supervisor)


  • urban nature
  • mega-development
  • socio-ecological resilience
  • governance
  • project management

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