Nurturing nature

The way we manage the land around our sites is benefiting local people as well as our business. Environmental Sustainability Advisor Chris Plester explains.

As a major UK infrastructure business we own a huge amount of land. Our sites include substations, offices and gas compressors. These sites have many acres of land around them that are not always used.

It means we’re in a great position to explore new opportunities for managing this land effectively. We also want to protect the natural environment and benefit our business and local communities. But as an energy business, looking after the environment is not our core strength. So we work with partners to find better ways of managing our land through a programme called the Natural Grid. 

Our partners include experts at Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as our contractors. They all help us to get it right, and focus on what is important. This means we can achieve the best possible results that benefit all involved. 

Together we consider what benefits the local environment provides and for whom. What we do depends on what’s important to us and to others. Ultimately, we want to create something of lasting value around our sites.

Varied habitats

We’ve set ourselves a target of working with partners at 50 locations in the UK by 2020. Currently that figure stands at 29. Those sites add up to more than 300 hectares of land which is home to a variety of plants and wildlife. The plants absorb CO2 naturally and screen our sites from view. The land also provides a valuable resource to be enjoyed by the local people. 

One place where we’ve seen great results is Ambergate. It’s next to our Gas Pipeline Maintenance Centre in Derbyshire. More than 17 hectares here have been marked as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As the landowner we have a legal duty to protect it. 

We’ve developed a five-year plan working with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT), as well as a local farmer and the regulator, Natural England. The aim is to protect the environment in a cost-effective way. At the same time, we want to build links with the local community and our employees. 

We’ve already seen a big improvement in biodiversity at the site. And local people are getting involved. DWT has arranged a number of community events where we tell people more about our work. In return they help us gather information about plant and animal life at the site. 

Volunteers, including our staff, also help manage the brambles and scrub that would otherwise threaten the grassland. 

Firm commitment 

Our approach at Ambergate shows how working with partners helps us focus on what natural features are really important. It’s good for the planet and great for our business too, clearly demonstrating our commitment to protecting the environment. 

We’re proud to be able to use our position as a landowner to benefit ecosystems, communities and biodiversity across the UK.

Published: June 2017