Protecting the environment
We manage the county’s resources in a sustainable manner to protect the environment and ensure a better quality of life for our residents. We do this by:
- creating programmes and initiatives to guide long-term environmental strategy in Essex
- giving consultation responses and advice to planners on green infrastructure, climate change mitigation and adaptation
See our Environmental Statement to find out more.
Essex has one of the longest coastlines of any county in England. We’re part of the Essex Coastal Forum, a partnership set up in 2011 to manage and protect the coast.
Our green infrastructure includes:
- open spaces such as parks and playing fields
- coastal habitats, lakes, ponds and rivers
- woodlands and fields
- allotments and gardens
- footpaths, bridleways and cycleways
We use strategies to plan these sites and deliver a network of high-quality green infrastructure and spaces. This brings many social, economic and environmental benefits, including:
- places to relax and play outdoors
- space and habitat for wildlife, with access to nature for people
- adapting and mitigating to climate change, for example, by managing floods and air pollution
- environmental education
- local food production, in allotments and gardens, and through agriculture
- improved health and wellbeing, lowering stress levels and giving opportunities for exercise
- enhancing and protecting biodiversity
Green infrastructure strategy
The strategy will enable us to achieve the objectives set our by the Essex Green Infrastructure Partnership, to:
- protect, create and improve green infrastructure for biodiversity and people
- improve connectivity and inclusivity, by supporting healthier, more active lifestyles
- contribute to economic growth
The strategy will also help us:
- gather evidence about the benefits of our existing green infrastructure
- improve the quality of green space in Essex
- explore the role of green infrastructure in planning (local plans)
- manage open spaces alongside urban growth
- undertake more green infrastructure projects, making Essex a better place to live
You can read the full Essex Green Infrastructure strategy (PDF, 14.25MB) and supporting documents:
- Part A - Consultation Summaries (PDF, 4.26MB)
- Part B - Appendices (PDF, 9.34MB)
- Part C - Technical Research Papers (6.43MB)
Green infrastructure mapping
Our strategy is informed by the spatial analysis of the green infrastructure provision for Greater Essex. A visual and interactive summary of this analysis is available to view, called the Green Essex Story Map.
The mapping shows:
- the distribution of green infrastructure assets across Greater Essex
- the number of functions performed by these assets and the benefits they provide to the local populations
- associations between green infrastructure provision in neighbourhoods and socio-economic characteristics of their resident populations
- the prevalence of current green infrastructure assets in the vicinity of proposed sites for future housing and economic development
The Green Essex Story Map improves access to data for researchers and analysts.
The School of Environmental Sciences at University of East Anglia completed the research and analysis. Assisted by Essex County Council and Places Services.
This study was made possible by the support of the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Green infrastructure projects
In October 2019 we formed the Essex Climate Change Commission, an independent, cross-party group that will investigate actions we can do to reduce both our own, and the county's carbon emissions and promote Green Infrastructure across Essex. Below are some of the projects that restore and enhance green infrastructure in Essex.
The Essex Forest Initiative
Launched in November 2019, the Essex Forest Initiative is our commitment to plant 375,000 trees across Essex over the next five years.
In terms of carbon offset, this equals around 60,000 return flights from Paris to New York. The scheme is part of wider efforts the council is doing to tackle climate change, reduce carbon, promote environmentally friendly infrastructure and protect green spaces.
For more information about how you can get involved, visit the Essex Forest Initiative page.
Below are some of past projects we have been involved in:
Thames Estuary Path
In 2014, we opened the Thames Estuary Path through South Essex Marshes. Veolia North Thames Trust and the MaxiGreen project funded this work, under the Interreg Two Seas programme. The MaxiGreen project saw seven EU partners work together to improve several neglected green spaces and heritage areas.
Greater Thames Marshes
Greater Thames Marshes covers 55,000 hectares across Essex, Kent and London. It’s rich in wildlife and one of only 12 such areas in England. Under the Greater Thames Marshes: Nature Improvement Area initiative to improve the marshes, we partnered with organisations and people working and living across the land.
Although the initial three-year programme has finished, Thames Gateway Local Nature Partnership is continuing the work, which we’re helping coordinate.
Parklands South Essex
We led the £10 million Parklands South Essex programme, which included:
- creation of the Bowers Marsh in Basildon by RSPB
- a grant to the Land Trust to manage 20 hectares of Canvey Wick
- creation of the Wat Tyler Green Centre and create new wildlife habitats
- funding towards creating the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park Visitor Centre by Essex Wildlife Trust at Mucking
- £1.3 million improvements to the RSPB nature reserve at Purfleet
Other environmental issues
We’re also engaged in the following issues.
In England, we each use an average of 1,050 litres of water a week. Our water has to be cleaned, treated and pumped from reservoirs, rivers and aquifers, and much of it leaks from pipes before it even reaches our homes.
Essex, which is in one of the driest parts of the country, is particularly prone to drought. We’re developing strategies to tackle these issues.
Sustainable Development Planning Guidance
We work with planners to review local development plans to achieve sustainable development and protect the environment. When developing neighbourhood plans and other planning documents, you may want to see:
- Neighbourhood planning for help to develop a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order
- Susdrain for resources to help deliver sustainable drainage systems
- Improving access to green spaces – a government paper giving local authorities a detailed guide on accessible green spaces
- the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s Low Carbon Neighbourhood Planning Guidebook for guidance on sustainable neighbourhood plans
- government guidance for local councils developing renewable and low carbon energy policies