2024 Award Winner’s Spotlight: Best Practice Award: Small Scale Nature Conservation

Welsh Government / Arcadis Consulting (UK) Ltd

Project Name: Coed Elai Business Park

This award was sponsored by:


The transformation of Coed Elai, a former colliery site in South Wales, from a derelict area into Parc Coed Elai Business Park with a focus on biodiversity enhancement and community benefit is an excellent example of the benefits for people and nature.

After its closure in 1986, remediation works were completed in 2001, including the creation of a wildlife wetland area and planting woodland blocks. However, minimal management was undertaken until the outline planning permission was due for renewal in 2020.

The updated design for the site aimed to increase biodiversity in alignment with Welsh government legislation focusing on environmental improvements and the wellbeing of future generations. This involved adjusting the layout to incorporate more brownfield habitats and transitional zones, as well as redesigning a multi-use games area into open brownfield and grassland for wildlife and recreational use.

A 25-year Landscape and Habitat Management Plan (LHMP) was developed and implemented, departing from traditional business park maintenance to active management for nature conservation. Actions included managing invasive species, creating additional brownfield and grassland areas, installing wildlife boxes, and reinstating wetlands and ponds.

Regular monitoring and management are ongoing, with quarterly visits and annual habitat assessments. The ambition is for Parc Coed Elai to serve as an exemplar of how former industrial sites can be actively managed for business, biodiversity, and community benefit, aligning with Welsh government goals.

The design amendments focused on retaining and enhancing priority habitats and ecosystems while allowing for viable development. The LHMP has three key objectives: developing public open space, maintaining active habitat management, and enhancing biodiversity.

The site is part of a wider network of green spaces aimed at maintaining landscape connectivity and reducing fragmentation impacts. Monitoring shows positive results, such as developing woodland structure, establishing new plant species, and supporting biodiversity.

The Welsh government, as the client, is committed to delivering net benefit for biodiversity and ensuring adherence to ecological principles. They provide ecological information to developers and enforce lease conditions related to the LHMP.

Overall, the project demonstrates how former industrial land can be transformed into a sustainable business park that benefits biodiversity, the community, and aligns with governmental goals. Access to open space is provided for business users and local residents, with connectivity to the wider public rights-of-way network. Interpretative boards will explain the site’s ecology and cultural heritage in both English and Welsh, serving as a roadmap for future sustainable development projects.