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Management of landscape in mid and south-west Flanders

Partner Action Number & Description

WP2 Action 6

 

Description / Nature of Pilot

This action will create a comprehensive approach to involve the social economy in the management of the landscape and biodiversity in the region of Mid- and South-West-Flanders. The action foresees in two main subprojects, being green maintenance and actions to support both the knowledge and survival of different species of amphibians in the region.

The province of West-Flanders is responsible for the water management of waterways level 2 and 3. In order to prevent flooding and/or foresee irrigation water during droughts, the province has created different “water buffers”. These are mostly located in intensively used agricultural regions. Given their specific properties (wetlands, open water, required accessibility for maintenance and flood control…), they have the potential to be developed into small islands with a high ecological value. Next to water buffering, this is also a very important function, given the fact that they can serve as step stones for high value species to travel inside a region that is not supportive to these species. This because of an intensive land use and being a densely populated area. The maintenance of these green areas however is very labour intensive. Given their wet nature, they are difficult to access with big machines. Hence the work has to be done by hand (or hand carried tools). We aim to make conservation plans for the different buffers and specify these labour intensive tasks that are preferably executed by social economy enterprises.

In collaboration with the city of Roeselare, tasks in green management that are not being executed by the city green services, are being reserved for social economy. These regions were already determined in advance of the Green and Blue Futures. However, the project will be used to effectively hire a company to maintain the green in a sub area of Beveren and attempt to set up a collaboration with the local inhabitants in order to raise a certain proudness and involvement with their own region. Moreover, the company that executes these works hires local inhabitants, strengthening this involvement even further.

The management of linear recreation routes in West-Flanders is a very recent issue. Since a couple of years the province is converting abandoned railway tracks into cycling tracks. Given the neglected state of some of these recreation routes, in some cases urgent works have to be carried out. These labour intensive works are preferably carried out by social economy as they are quite often difficult to access or the work (and wood) is of a scale that is too small to be interesting for regular economy. By reserving these tasks for a social economy enterprise, we aim to provide sufficient funding for these companies, allowing them to keep on hiring long term unemployed peoples. Also similar tasks within other provincial domains make part of this subproject. Where possible, a collaboration with local inhabitants or volunteers will be investigated and established.

Originally a project in collaboration with a school to grow endogenous plants was foreseen. However, due to technical and financial issues, this cannot be executed. However, as within WP2A6 we had already foreseen a collaboration with volunteers the choice was made to further strengthen this path. This idea was confirmed, based on the lessons learned thanks to the different visits to other partners of the Green and Blue Futures project (as described in the original application in Action WP3A2).

A collaboration with volunteers will be set up both to investigate and protect nature values within the West-Flanders region. Three teams of volunteers will be gathered to: coppice willows, inventory ponds in the region and to assist amphibians to cross the roads. Where possible, collaborations with local social economy enterprises will be set up.

Where possible we will try to make the link between social economy enterprises and volunteers in the different project mentioned above.

 

Pilot Framework / Timescale

2012 ? study/analysis of the different buffers in order to create the different nature management schemes for the social economy. Allready in this phase, social economy enterprises will be hired to execute the most urgent works.

Start of the volunteer work in order to evaluate the possibilities and difficulties in order to improve and rationalise our work with volunteers in 2013

Further define the collaboration with the city of Roeselare.

2013 ? Start of the work in the water buffers according to the realised plans. These will be used as a base in order to define work for the social economy enterprises, giving them a better chance to optimise their works and look into the future possibilities.

Further ‘professionalization’ of the work with volunteers. New communication devices, work books, public oriented approaches will be put into action, based on the lessons learned in 2013.

Finalise the collaboration with the city of Roeselare, define a region where the works will be carried out and first maintenance to be performed in order to make a good start before local inhabitants can be involved.

2014 ? evaluation of the work carried out by the social economy enterprises in 2013, followed by a new public procurement for nature related works in 2014. Attempts to involve volunteers in this maintenance. Start of the process to improve the skill valorisation within the organisations that are involved.

Attempt to raise the number of volunteers and to work in additional communities.

First meetings with the local inhabitants, asking for their desires and needs. Carry on with maintenance that has to be carried out. In this way a good atmosphere should be created so local inhabitants are willing to assist in the maintenance and new realisations in 2015.

2015 ? evaluation of the work carried out by the social economy enterprises, public procurement for the works to be carried out in 2015. Further elaboration of a skill evaluation system that can also serve in social economy enterprises that are not (directly) employed by the province.

Insure that the work with volunteers will also be carried out after the GBF-project. Hence, the results from the previous years have to evaluated. The tools developed (insurance policy, website, communication tools) have to be used by additional provincial staff.

First attempts to involve the inhabitants directly in the maintenance and renovation of their local environment green with organised work days.

 

Funding / Budget

EFRO: € 216,661.5

Province of West-Flanders:€ 162,901.5

City of Roeselare:€ 53,760.00

 

Technical or Engineering Assessments / Issues

The nature conservation of the water buffers may never inhibit their first and most important function: prevention of flooding. Hence all plans should fulfil some requirements:

-    Machines always have to be able to reach the buffers.

-    The volume of the plants growing should be negligible in comparison with the buffer capacity.

-    Some species are obliged by law to be eradicated.

-    Cost efficiency

In order to overcome these difficulties, nature conservation plans will be made and discussed with the different provincial services (nature service and water service).

 

Pilot Outputs / Outcomes

-    11 provincial buffers will be maintained, creating opportunities for rare species and unique green spots with a high nature value in a region that is lacking much of these spaces. These will provide work to social economy enterprises, both during and after the GBF project.

-    3 provincial domains will undergo works when needed

-    12,000 amphibians will be saved

-    150 ponds will be inventoried

-    300 volunteers will be reached, leading to community building and involvement of the volunteers with their own region and its nature values.

-    500 trees will be coppiced by volunteers

-    A skill valorisation will be set up for social economy enterprises

 

Constraints / Requirements

Constraints are mostly discussed in the ‘Technical or Engineering Assessments / Issues’ Paragraph.

The most important requirement will be the organisation of communication canals in order to reach a much a possible local inhabitants of the region. Hence, a strong collaboration with the “Stad-Land-schap ‘t West-Vlaamse hart” will be needed.

 

Pilot Stakeholders

-    Internally

o    Jasper Dugardeyn

o    Pieter Blontrock

o    Provincial environmental service

o    Provincial water service

o    SLS ‘t West-Vlaamse hart

o    Involved communities, especially the city of Roeselare

o    Nature volunteering groups

o    Inhabitants of West-Flanders

 

Recommended Design Delivery

The province of West-Flanders will supply most of the results through the efforts of the “Regional house” in Roeselare. Main contact person is Jasper Dugardeyn.

 

Pilot Delivery Strategy

The results of this action will be delivered through a combination of different solutions:

  • Yearly tendering procedures
  • Long term (5 years) tendering
  • Volunteer programmes
  • Collaboration with different organisations and partners to set up a skill valorisation procedure
  • A mixture of the above

 

Risks & Opportunities (additional to Green & Blue Futures outputs)

Most of the risks and opportunities have been included in the project definition within the Green and Blue Futures project.

Yet some additional opportunities have risen. The contact with owners of trees to be pollard, has led to opportunities to rise nature value in their domain even more strongly, through planting new trees, shrubs, digging ponds…

 

Future Cost Implications / Maintenance Requirements

Also in the future, maintenance of the different buffers or social green will be required. Giving the fact that long term nature conservation plans are agreed upon within the GBF project, the expectation is that the works described within those plans will also be carried out after the finalisation of the GBFproject.

Concerning the volunteer work, a lot of effort was invested in the development of the communication channels. Hence, the main challenge will be to keep on hiring staff to interact with the volunteers and use the developed tools.