Stour Valley water meadows along the River Stour

Last updated 17 January 2024

The Project

On land previously known as Hicks Farm, the Stour Valley water meadows project at Throop is opening up an exciting new area of approximately 12 hectares (30 acres) of BCP Council green space along the River Stour, offering people more opportunity to get outside and explore the great outdoors. The water meadows will include a variety of circular walks, and semi-natural spaces to explore. There will be a new car park, gravel paths and grassy paths, benches and informative signs. The area will also provide space for dogs to exercise.

The project has been designed to protect and enhance the existing wildlife habitats and species in the local area, whilst making improvements by planting thousands of new trees within new copses and by reinstating old hedgerows lost previously due to changes in agricultural practices. We will also be managing the majority of the floodplan meadow through conservation grazing and this will improve the wildflower diversity within that grassland.

Please note: the SANG footpaths are temporarily closed to the public during the works to prepare the area for improved public access.

Stour Valley water meadows - aerial concept

Planning approval was granted in 2021 (Application reference 7-2021-7824-C). A number of technical assessments have been completed to consider potential impacts upon ecology, trees, transport, heritage, flood risk and landscape, as well as opportunities for enhancement. Planning Conditions were discharged in January 2023.

Works started in spring 2023; they are expected to be completed and the water meadows open to the public autumn 2023.

Project Updates

w/c 15 January

The build outs are complete along Taylor Drive and the Local Highways Authority are satisfied that this infrastructure offers increased visibility for the road.

We are waiting for the determination of the two planning condition variations relating to the removal of yellow lines opposite the car park entrance (Condition 18), and to allow the SANG to open before electric vehicle charging points (EVCP) are installed (Condition 11). The latter is currently holding us up as we are waiting for a third-party to install the EVCP. Once the Local Planning Authority allows us to open before these are installed, we will be able to comply with the planning conditions and plan to open the gates to the public.

In addition, there is some pathway damage from the recent flooding which was expected immediately after the first floods. We will be carrying out repairs to these areas when the SANG ground conditions improve.

w/c 08 January

The build out installations began last week and are progressing well on site.

Tarmacking and tactile slab installations are to be carried out on Thursday which will complete these works allowing increased visibility when crossing.

w/c 04 December 2023

Now that the SANG has been built, we have been working with the Local Planning Authority to gain approval of the 21 planning conditions relating to the SANG.

Four conditions (no’s. 1, 8, & 9) have required non-material amendments to the original planning application where drawings have been updated and submitted for approval. These are not publicly consulted on and will be determined by the designated planning officer.

Condition no. 9 is for visibility splays on both sides of the road and pedestrian access onto Taylor Drive.

Despite approved vegetation cut back, further inspections from the Local Highway Authority found that visibility was substandard, therefore requiring buildouts to improve highway safety. This will allow pedestrians additional visibility when crossing and aims to slow down the traffic on the road by reducing the width to 4.8m, still allowing for cars and HGV to pass – please refer to our illustration.

These works are expected to be carried out by the end of December.

A variation to condition no. 18 has been submitted and is being advertised for the ‘removal of the carriageway marking (proposed yellow lines) to restrict parking/loading along a circa 15m stretch of Taylor Drive’, opposite the SANG car park entrance. Planning notices (see our photo) have been displayed and comments are welcome before 15 December 2023.

Another variation to condition no. 11 has been submitted for consideration relating to the Electric Vehicle Charging Points. The associated underground infrastructure has been installed, but the Council are reliant on the charging points that are on order with a third-party; the timescale is unknown. The planning condition states the SANG must not be opened until the charging points are implemented in full; therefore we have asked for the removal of this condition requirement so that the SANG can open before the charging points are installed at a later stage.

w/c 27 November

Fencing has continued in the car park and link area, with only a few gates left to be installed. These works should be finished by the end of the year, and you will likely see our cows grazing in the fields behind in no time.

Planting will also be taking place over the coming weeks, with our rangers and a group of volunteers planting trees along the edges of the car park and around the bunding. Hopefully we will start seeing these grow properly in the Spring.

w/c 23 October

The car park and link footpath area fencing is underway at the back of the bunding to allow protection of the trees that will be planted shortly, and to separate the adjacent grazing fields.

w/c 09 October

The fencing in the main SANG area is complete and we will soon be moving our cows into some of the grazing areas.

w/c 25 September

The fencing installation is coming along nicely but there have been some delays due to the poor weather last week. We are working as hard and quickly as possible to finish fencing the sections within the main field, then the car park will be secured and the SANG will be ready to open.

New signage has been installed across the site from the car park and around the SANG. Spacious noticeboards have been provided to allow for site information to be shared accordingly.

Urban Heath Partnership have also kindly installed people counters at three pathway points to allow us to monitor the public use of the SANG from various access points. Car park counts will also be taken in accordance with the surveying to monitor the car park use.

w/c 21 August

The footpath materials have been completely laid and rolled, as well as the stone on the car park grid paving. There have been some final touches to tidy up the edges around the car park and along the footpath link to finish up.

The height barrier was the last to be installed this week and secures the entrance to the car park. Two removable bollards have also gone in on the footpath by the pedestrian crossing to stop vehicle access, other than council rangers.

We are pleased to share that this update is the last following the completion of the SANG, car park and footpath link area construction. We still need to install the fencing in the main SANG and car park, and install signage before we can open to the public, therefore the site will remain closed. Please come back to see more information about opening soon.

w/c 14 August

The contractors are near completion though the weather has caused some time delays. The final finish limestone surface along the footpath is looking good but needs finishing by rolling down and compacting together.

The street furniture cycle stands have been installed along the footpath and the pedestrian bollards have been placed within the car park. Gravel has also been laid on top of the plastic paving grids as the finish surface.

Next week will see the footpath material completely laid and rolled, and the contractors will be carrying out any necessary works to tidy the site with an aim to finish by the end of the week.

w/c 07 August

The edging kerbs have been completed on the car park entrance and the ‘buff’ tarmac surface has been installed at the vehicle entrance and pedestrian crossing further down Taylor Drive. The plastic paving grids have been extended from the car park up to the tarmac and will see permanent entrance materials going in next week which will allow drainage through.

The footpath subbase material has been installed along with the cell web around the tree roots, and we plan to have the final limestone surface laid next week.

Earth bunds have also been formed around the outside of the car park to create a natural barrier where trees will be planted from September.

w/c 24 July

Fencing in the fields and signage is due to be installed in August and the footpaths are setting in ready for opening from September.

The car park perimeter filter drains and paving over the drainage and car park area have been installed; the ducting is shortly going in which will be used for the electric vehicle charging points within the car park. The entrance has also been dug and edging kerbs have been installed ready for the tarmac surface to come into off Taylor Drive.

The link footpath from the car park, adjacent to Taylor Drive to the pedestrian crossing has been completely dug out ready for the subbase material early next week. The cell web will also go down to protect the tree roots and then the final finish limestone surface will be laid.

w/c 03 July

The SANG field footpaths are complete after the final finish roll. The footpaths need time to settle in with no use, so the site is still not open or accessible to the public. The hardstanding furniture has now been fully installed consisting of the cycle stands, benches, perch seat, and bollards where applicable.

The car park works are progressing well with the remaining edging kerbs installed and the sub-base material going down. Next week should see the perimeter filter drain and paving grids over the drainage installed.

w/c 26 June

Both the 3m and 1.5m footpaths have had the final finish limestone surface and some of the hardstanding furniture has been installed. The remainder will be installed next week.

The car park area has been levelled out and compacted ready for the sub-base material and edging kerb around the perimeter to go down.

w/c 12 June

The contractors have begun works on the car park area by marking out and excavating the required size as well as creating the entrance.

w/c 05 June

The final finish limestone surface continues to be laid along the 3m wide footpath. Once the footpath has been completed, the hardstanding furniture will be installed comprising of two cycle stands at each entrance to the fields, as well as benches spread out to enjoy the views across to the river. The 1.5m footpath awaits the same top surface finish.

w/c 22 May

Works have progressed well in the field areas as the final finish limestone surface is being laid on the 3m wide footway. The contractors have started from the entrance at Watery Lane working their way to the joining path to the River Stour weir. The 1.5m footpath is well underway and will see the same surface dressing laid.

w/c 08 May

Excavation works have taken place over the past two weeks to create the 3m wide footpath within the main SANG field. This links the Stour Valley pedestrian gate along Watery Lane and will connect into the existing footpath, accessed via Throop Road, going toward the River Stour weir.

The weather last weekend slowed progress at the beginning of the week, but the contractors have been able to trim up the current footpath meaning there are less bumps and a better fall on the edges, ready for the limestone surface dressing to be laid shortly.

Thursday saw the first section of cell web installed within the footpath, allowing a no dig solution ensuring the load placed upon it is laterally dispersed rather than transferring to the soil and roots below, preventing root severance.

w/c 24 April

This week the contractors arrived to mobilise and set up their working area. The plant and machinery have been delivered as well as welfare cabins.

In order to access the main SANG field at the rear of Hicks Farm, avoiding traffic movement through Throop Village, the contractors have been making a haul road. Next week we will see the works move to the main SANG fields as the 3m wide footpaths will be excavated to level.

w/c 03 April

Our SANG Ranger has been out with countryside volunteers planting new hedgerows within the main field. There are a range of hedgerow plants comprising:

  • Acer campestre
  • Cornus sanguinea
  • Corylus avellana
  • Crataegus monogyna
  • Malus sylvestris
  • Rosa canina
  • Viburnum opulus.

w/c 27 March

This week the first phase of fencing has been installed and extended along the bank of the River Stour to increase protection of riverside habitats.

01 March

Due to bird nesting season, a trained ecologist was on site first thing this morning to check the vegetation. Nothing of concern was found and all on-site clearance was completed today.

w/c 27 February

Vegetation Clearance

This week we have Homegrown Timber (Rail) Ltd, who are an Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor, on site carrying out vegetation clearance to the compound area at Hicks Farm and clearance of bramble along the edge of the main SANG field.

Some trees require cutting back, particularly in the car park entrance, and one tree requires felling near the path entrance at Watery Lane. We are conscious that bird nesting season is upon us from 1st March inclusive, and should the clearance works overrun we have arranged for a trained ecologist to be on site to oversee all works past this date.

Location & Accessibility

Stour Valley water meadows will be accessed from Throop Road and Watery Lane for pedestrians and cycles.

It will be served by a new, nearby car park off of Taylor Drive, including some disabled parking spaces. The gravel paths will be suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. There will be benches and dog bins in the park. There will be cycle parking at both entrances.

Stour Valley water meadows will be a SANG

SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces) are purposely designed to encourage people to use them for leisure purposes, rather than visiting the Dorset Heathlands which are of national and European nature conservation importance and designated as a Special Protection Area.

All new housing developments in Poole and Bournemouth make a financial contribution towards a package of mitigation measures, including the creation of natural green space. This has already led to the creation of 30 hectares of new natural green space at Upton Park Farm in Poole and over 14 hectares of new natural greenspace at Canford Park in Bearwood. The creation of natural green space accessible to the public along the River Stour at Throop will complement this and help to meet the needs of future generations.

Project details

Total Budget £898,000
Funding Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Heathland Mitigation (£798,000) and other (£100,000)
Project Leader Katie Azulay
T. 01202 123123
E. greenspaces@bcpcouncil.gov.uk

Project documents

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