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What is the NIA?

The Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area (NIA), stretches up to Wallasea Island in Essex and includes the large Kent and London Marshes. It is an area where partners believe biodiversity can be markedly improved. The NIA is only one of 12 in England and has an aim to make biodiversity “Bigger, better and more joined up” (Professor John Lawton).

How big is the NIA?

The NIA is 55,000 hectares in area, extending up to the Foulness, Potton and Wallasea Islands to the north in Essex and incudes the Kent Estuary including the Isle of Grain and Sheppey. It also includes Rainham and Dartford Marshes in the London area.

What are the NIA Objectives?

Objective 1:Mapping the biodiversity. Early on, the NIA will map all known sites so the future investments can be targeted at areas of need and “stepping stones” between areas of interest.

Objective 2: Partnership Working. These are projects where partners are either funding or helping with resources such as Defra Higher Level Stewardship scheme which will be promoted by a RSPB farmland Advisor. In Essex Biodiversity Offsetting is being piloted with Thurrock Council to improve sites in Thurrock.

Objective 3: NIA Projects. These are projects where NIA resources substantially fund improvement. Examples include a project in Essex to improve the habitat of Thames Terrace Invertebrates.

Objective 4: Communication. Telling the NIA story to landowners, partners and the public is absolutely critical and this project aims to convince all audiences that this project is vital to the sustainability of the Thames Estuary Marshes.

Objective 5: Legacy. Finally the project is looking to the future and is seeking to raise £5 to £7 million toward future projects.

How long will the NIA last?

Currently the NIA is working to a three year Business Plan which finishes in April 2015. This is considered a pilot period and it is assumed that the NIA will last many more years.

What is MaxiGreen?

MaxiGreen is an Interreg Iva project which is part of the Two Seas Programme. MaxiGreen is an abbreviation for “Maximising Green Heritage”. The project aims to plan for multi benefit green infrastructure, involve local people and communities and open access to the green resource.

What are the MaxiGreen Projects?

• Creating a Vision for the South Essex Marshes to explain the context and visitor attractions of the Marshes
• Extending the Hadleigh Olympic Mountain Biking site in and around the Hadleigh, leigh and Benfleet, by creating new access paths
• Creating the Thames Estuary Footpath from Tilbury Town to Leigh, a distance of 26 miles and the connections to the 6 railway stations
• A mobile phone application which guides the visitor through the Estuary
• A map of the Thames Estuary Footpath and its attraction
• A consultation with the nine local communities

Who is managing Parklands in South Essex?

Essex County Council employed a Parklands Project Manager up until March 2011 when the funding finished. Since then John Meehan, the Essex County Council Environment Manager manages the Programme. He is based at Castle Point Borough Council offices and Chelmsford.

What is the Parklands Vision?

Our Vision is to take what’s great about South Essex and, through Parklands, to signify to current and future generations of residents and visitors that this is a place that celebrates its heritage and environmental character, embraces its identity and connections with the Thames estuary, is aware of its carbon footprint, and welcomes people and enterprise. South Essex is the natural, sustainable place to be.

How does Parklands fit with the Greengrid?

The Greengrid Strategy was written in 2005 and set out the strategic vision to link all greenspaces, where possible across Thames Gateway South Essex. The Parklands Projects are large scale projects announced by Government in 2008 to deliver large areas of the Greengrid

What are the strategic objectives of Parklands?

Our strategic objectives focus specifically on the role of Parklands in realising the Vision to secure a high quality, accessible natural environment that focuses on the South Essex Marshes.
• To secure a high quality built environment and public realm.
• To contribute to the eco-region, specifically through climate change mitigation and adaptation.
• To promote and celebrate the historic environment and heritage
• To create opportunities for sustainable transport between homes, workplaces and visitor attractions.

What are the Parklands Projects?

For more details see the “Projects” part of this website. The Parklands Projects are in alphabetical order.

Canvey Wick - The restoration of 20 hectares of a 100 hectares former petroleum site which has returned to nature over the last 40 years managed by the Land Restoration Trust.

Central South Essex Marshes - The improvement of 930 hectares of marshes south of Basildon and on the western area of Canvey Island. Managed by RSPB.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park - Mainly the Cory Landfill site in Mucking which will cease filling over the next two years and the landfill will become a Park. It is surrounded by existing nature reserves. The total area of 640 hectares will be managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Part of the scheme is the new Visitor Centre now open, seven days per week.

Wat Tyler Country Park.A park which is has a new Visitor Centre and facilities funded from Heritage Lottery and Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust, however the Parklands funding will improve the overall landscape. Additionally, a new Green Centre has been funded showing how such parks contribute to offset global warming and seek to slow down climate change. The project is managed by Basildon District Council.

Wildspace Thurrock. RSPB is restoring Rainham, Aveley and Wennington Marshes. Wildspace Thurrock will specifically improve the Thurrock area of the marshes. The projects included a new foot and cycle bridge over the Mardyke river to nearby Purfleet and improving other entrances and bridges to the nature reserve. Additional projects include two outdoor classrooms/hides for 30 pupils, a new arts structure on the banks of the Mardyke river and a wind turbine.

Where are the Parklands Projects?

They are all in the Thames Gateway South Essex area.

• Wildspace Thurrock is in Purfleet, Thurrock.

• Thurrock Thameside Nature Park is in Mucking, Thurrock.

• The Central South Essex Marshes is in the south of Basildon and in the west of Canvey Island.

• Wat Tyler Country Park is south of Pitsea.

• Canvey Wick is on Canvey Island in Castle Point Borough Council

Are the Parklands Projects open to the public?

Four sites are open to the public with fifth being developed for open space currently
Four projects are open, namely:

1) Wildspace Thurrock, which is a project focused around Rainham RSPB Reserve. (Open 7 days a week 01708 899 840) . Nearest station Purfleet, but Rainham is also walkable (30 mins to the Visitor Centre)
2) Wat Tyler Country Park, near Pitsea (Open 7 days a week 01268 550 088). Nearest Station is Pitsea.
3) Thurrock Thameside Nature in Mucking in Thurrock. (Open 7 days per week 01375 643342)
4)  Central South Essex Marshes, run by RSPB based at Wat Tyler Country Park Open 7 days per week 01268 498620)

One Project is not open

1)Canvey Wick, which is being developed now and will open soon with a car Park off Northwick road managed by the RSPB

How were the Parklands Projects chosen?

All the local conservation groups were asked to prepare projects which fitted with the Governments vision for Parklands.
This long list was reduced to 16 projects which formed a “Business Plan” which was sent to the Government Department, CLG in July 2008. In November 2008, 5 were chosen as the ideal Parklands Projects.

Will there be more Parklands and Greengrid Projects?

We hope so! The vision produced by Government described the parklands vision as “One vision – a Thousand Projects”
Throughout Thames Gateway in Essex, London and Kent 15 Parklands Projects have been started. There are hundreds more to be implemented, many with funding from elsewhere. In Essex we have identified another 100 major projects and hundreds of other small projects exist.

How much money is being spent on Parklands Projects?

£9.8 million of Government funding and £12.9 million of other funding, such as Lottery funding, Landfill Tax (Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust and Cory Environmental Trust). The total funding is a staggering £24.4 million.