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GRO6 - Delivering Plymouth's natural network

GRO6 - Delivering Plymouth's natural network


The Plan ensures that the natural environment is fully considered and embedded in the delivery of the city's vision for growth.

Image Devonport Park
Photo by John Torcasio
Image Open Swim
Photo by Nikoline Arns


The city will ensure that the natural environment is fully considered and embedded in the delivery of the city's vision for growth. The Natural Network will consist of a functional network of green and blue spaces that support a high quality of life for communities as well as providing an attractive environment for investment, space for nature to thrive and increased resilience to the impacts of climate change. The Natural Network includes public open space, allotments, play areas, woodlands, trees, playing pitches, Local Green Spaces, statutory and non-statutory designated sites, Strategic Greenspace Areas, Undeveloped Coast, Strategic Landscape Areas, Protected Landscape Areas, marine areas.

Plymouth's natural network will be delivered through the following measures:

  1. Developing a new model for managing natural spaces that enable communities to have more involvement and ownership of their local spaces, and deliver effective partnership working maximise the benefits it brings to health and well being.
  2. Aiming to ensure that everyone in the city has good access to a high quality natural space within a target distance of their home, in accordance with the following accessibility standards set out in Figure 3.2 of the Joint Local Plan.
  3. Ensuring our bathing water quality achieves 'Excellent' under the new more stringent EU standards and continues to provide a high quality cultural, wildlife and recreational resource for the city. This work will be delivered with the support of South West Water, the Environment Agency, the Marine Management Organisation and other partners.
  4. Sustainably managing the city's water environment by adopting a catchment based approach to ensure reductions in flood risk and enhanced water quality, wildlife, amenity value and designated shellfish waters.
  5. Using planning powers to protect and enhance the network and support the achievement of the accessibility standards.


Plymouth has one of the most unique and diverse natural environments of any city in the country. Over 40 per cent of the city is designated as green space, and is surrounded by three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a European Marine Site, a Marine Conservation Zone and Dartmoor National Park. This provides an enviable setting and a distinctive collection of assets that can support the growth of Plymouth. Green and blue spaces that are healthy and able to function naturally also provide solutions to climate change impacts, including reducing flooding, improving water quality and enabling wildlife to thrive.

The delivery of Plymouth's natural network will include green spaces (including parks, nature reserves, woodlands and allotments) and blue spaces (including rivers, streams, the coast and sea). As natural networks do not conform to administrative boundaries, the delivery of the network will happen both within and around the city. This will require cross border co-operation.

High quality natural spaces, and the network of links between them, are essential in the delivery of services that provide significant social, economic and environmental benefits. A high quality and properly functioning natural network will therefore provide the following:

  • Space for recreation and relaxation - There is a key relationship between the quantity of accessible green space and quality of life. As Plymouth grows we must ensure that we provide high quality natural spaces that are accessible to everyone to enable them to access the health and wellbeing benefits these spaces offer.
  • Playful spaces - The time children play outside during the week has halved in one generation. This shows how vital it now is to provide high quality places to play that are near to where children live and that families are confident to enjoy and explore.
  • Engaging learning environments - The design of our natural spaces will therefore incorporate features that allow them to become exciting and thought provoking learning environments where students can flourish.
  • Benefits to businesses - An attractive natural setting encourages inward investment and the relocation of businesses. As a result of Plymouth's distinctive natural environment, this will be a unique selling point for city businesses.
  • Climate change support measures - The natural network will form an important part of the solution to managing the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
  • Spaces for Nature - Plymouth's wealth of rare and protected habitats and species will be protected and enhanced so that they can thrive within the natural network.

The Joint Local Plan sets out how this policy will be supported through the planning process.

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