Feedback about Langley Mead and Ridge Suitable Alternative Green Space (SANG) was positive, and it was clear how much these green spaces are valued by the local community. There was concern about the flooding on Langley Mead which prevents access at certain times of the year. Suggestions to improve these spaces included more trees, the installation of picnic benches, bins and information about the biodiversity of the SANGs.
What is a SANG?
A Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace is an area that is aimed at protecting a Special Protection Area (SPA). An SPA is part of a European-wide network of sites of international importance for nature conservation. Surrounding these Areas are buffer zones in which development is constrained to prevent damage to the SPA itself. These are the SANGs.
The primary purpose of a SANG is to provide an alternative area to the SPA for recreation. The SANG also has to meet criteria set by Natural England that requires it to be perceived as semi-natural space with little intrusion of artificial structures, which allows the valuable biodiversity to thrive.
If you would like to understand more about the development of Langley Mead, you can find a copy of the monitoring report on the University website.
Can you prevent Langley Mead from flooding?
The flooding on Langley Mead is a characteristic of the area which must not be prevented. The flooding results in the type of fauna and flora you see at Langley Mead SANG being able to grow and thrive there. It preserves the ditches and ponds which provide perfect conditions for amphibians that would otherwise struggle to survive in rivers due to predators such as fish. Although the flooding prevents access at certain times of the year, it maintains and increases the biodiversity of the SANG.
Additionally, if Langley Mead was prevented from flooding, the water would go somewhere else and potentially damage an environment that isn’t designed to be flooded.
Can you plant more trees in the SANGs?
The planting of Langley Mead and Ridge SANG has intentionally been chosen according to the soil type of the area. The ground conditions aren’t ideal for the growth of trees which is why you don’t see them in the SANGs.
The University could explore the growth of solitary trees but more woodland would potentially reduce the area that the public access to walk.
To improve tree growth in Shinfield, a plan is currently being developed to manage the woodland in Tanners Copse and High Copse which you can find highlighted on the strategic greenspace plan. This will focus on biodiversity enhancements and protection.
Can you install more picnic benches and bins in the SANGs?
Although the primary purpose of the SANG is to provide an alternative area to the SPA for recreation, it also has to meet criteria set by Natural England that requires it to be perceived as semi-natural space with little intrusion of artificial structures. This is why there are no picnic benches or bins in the SANGs, to ensure the natural space is protected. The University will improve signage reminding visitors of this and sharing advice about how to look after the space.
However, in response to the amount of feedback requesting more picnic benches and recreational space, the University will explore introducing this into the area of land below the Ridge SANG, labelled number 11 on the strategic greenspace plan. Shinfield Parish Council will also be providing new picnic benches and bins at Deardon Field.
Feedback for the Tree for Life Garden was also positive, and we look forward to developing this proposal further with local residents. There were several comments about widening the criteria to plant a tree for anyone in the local community. Planting a tree to mark the birth or adoption of a child has been decided as it provides an educational opportunity for young people and local schools to engage with the growth of their tree as they get older. We recognise this could be triggering to individuals who have experienced child loss and will be mindful of this when the Tree for Life Garden is developed.
We will produce and install QR codes at various locations across the SANGs so you can find out more information about the biodiversity. National Meadows Day is on Saturday 2 July where we will be running a series of activities for you to find out more about the SANGs, including the official opening of the Ridge SANG. We will share more information once plans are finalised.
We are currently developing the process for the Tree for Life Garden and will promote to Shinfield residents once applications are open.