The Built Environment
This includes the built up areas that account for approximately 9% of the county’s area, in which a large proportion of people reside (over one third of the population live in Swindon alone). Other major towns include Salisbury, Chippenham, Marlborough, Devizes, Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury. These built up areas contain a wide range of wildlife habitats, some of which are of international importance, such as the River Avon in Salisbury. Such pockets of green space become of more value to wildlife if they are connected together creating a network enabling wildlife to become established.
Typical built environment habitats include:
Semi-natural habitats. These include woodland, wetland, watercourses and grassland. These can have a high ecological value as they provide refuges for plants and animals.
Managed open spaces. This includes parks, common land, playing fields and churchyards. Management of these areas is often quite intensive with frequently mown grass with a few flowerbeds and scattered trees; with fewer grass cuts these area can become more important for wildlife. Churchyards are now often managed less intensively and can be havens for wildlife with areas of species-rich grassland and old trees and buildings which may house bat roosts.
Gardens and allotments. Gardens can be real wildlife havens especially if they have ponds in particular for Great Crested Newts, Slow Worms, and the Common Frog; and as more wildlife is lost from rural areas gardens become much more significant. The importance of gardens and allotments becomes greater when they are arranged in a block with a variety of native plants including trees, shrubs and flowering plants.
Neglected sites. This includes disused railway lines, mines and demolition sites; these areas are often called brownfield sites and can be good for reptiles and insects. Such urban brownfield land can often support unique assemblages of plants comprised of a range of native annual weeds and exotic species which have escaped from, or been thrown out of domestic gardens.
Buildings and other structures. This includes agricultural barns and outbuildings that can be important for Barn Owls and old industrial buildings, churches and tunnels that may host important populations of bats, including the Greater Horseshoe Bat. A number of areas have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation under European legislation for their importance to bats.
There is thought to be 28,000ha of built up land in Wiltshire with 82 urban spaces that are of value to wildlife in Swindon and Wroughton and 50 in Salisbury. There are currently nine SSSIs in urban areas in Wiltshire and a number of both community nature reserves and Local Nature Reserves.