AN ECOLOGICAL survey has begun on a major 3,520 home housing development in Basingstoke.

The developers of the 2,000-acre Manydown project said the survey is being held to ensure that the new development enhances the natural environment and landscape, boosts biodiversity and creates new areas for wildlife.

As part of the preparatory work at the site, ecology experts are mapping existing wildlife habitats to minimise impact on them during the development process.

Other ecology work includes developing management strategies for rare arable plants, ancient woodland and grasslands along with plans for creating new and enhancing existing habitats.

Paul Chester, the lead ecologist for the project, said the development can deliver significant biodiversity enhancement.

“Whilst parts of Manydown retain a diverse and interesting ecology that will need to be protected, parts of the site have already lost biodiversity due to farming practices and stopping traditional woodland or hedgerow management techniques,” Mr Chester said.

“The project brings the opportunity to restore degraded or lost habitats and to target key species that have seen local declines or have not been seen in the areas for many years. It is a very exciting project that can deliver significant biodiversity enhancement.”

The project is undertaken in partnership between Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, and master developer Urban&Civic, part of the global charity the Wellcome Trust.

An archaeological survey is also underway at the site to provide a fuller picture of the character and history of the area.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance and major projects Cllr John Izett said the project will help nature in a meaningful way.

“Listening to leading ecologist Paul Chester, and hearing about the amazing plans on behalf of our development partnership for the restoration of so many native plants and animals to Manydown, was a hugely inspiring moment,” Cllr Izett said.

“It is evidence of both our commitment to the environment, that is central to how we develop Manydown, and of the opportunity available on such a big site, that will have so much green space, to help nature in a meaningful way while enriching the lives of borough residents who will have use of these spaces.”

According to developers, the Manydown site will consist of green spaces including neighbourhood parks, squares, gardens and playing fields, as well as a 250-acre countryside park which will protect existing habitats and provide an opportunity to enhance the biodiversity of the land, as well as facilitate access to well cared for green spaces.

The Hampshire County Council leader Councillor Keith Mans said the target of the project is to build houses with minimum impact on the current inhabitants of the site.

“It is a priority that the Manydown development is planned to enhance the local environment and embrace the benefits of its rural location,” Cllr Mans said.

“These important preparatory stages of the project are helping to assess the existing flora and fauna so when home building starts it is done with minimum impact to the current inhabitants of the site.”