Producing a Management Plan

The Process

Surveying the Site

In order to look after a site, you have to know what it is like. It's surprising what a thorough survey can throw up. You might discover that you own more of the land than you thought or that you have a colony of bats or that the site will be under water if there is heavy rainfall.

There are two strands to a survey. The first part is good to do in winter. It includes research; putting your feet up and the computer on. The second is more strenuous and will probably involve mud.

Desktop Survey

Even if the site you are looking after is relatively young, you might find out some interesting information that you will need in the management plan. Desktop surveys involve some of the following:

Old maps and plans

Aerial photographs

Newspaper articles

OS maps

Council records

Designations e.g. SSSIs

Ownership and boundaries - deeds

Planning permission

Rights of way, easements

Archaeological information

Historical records

Services - utility pipes, electric cables etc

Climate

Aspect

Soil

Geology

Physical Survey

If your site is relatively small, you can probably survey it yourself, otherwise it's worth paying a surveyor to do it and give you a base plan with the boundaries, features and contours/spot heights that you can use as a base plan. Very few sites have baseplans that are accurate to work with and if you can produce a good working plan at the beginning, it saves a lot of confusion later on. You will probably need some of the following:

Linear survey - tape and chain (old-school!) or GPS

Level survey - theodolite/laser level or GPS

Habitat survey

Inventory of site features

Buildings survey

Visual impact assessment

Tree survey

Vegetation survey

If the site has important historical aspects, you may well need a much more detailed historical survey that involves geophysical survey methods, field walking, aerial photography and expert interpretation.

Timing

It's very easy to decide that a site has little or no habitat value or aesthetic quality when a gale is lashing grit into your face and the mud has clung to your boots so that you can barely lift your feet. If possible, do a vegetation or habitat survey at several times of year so that you catch all the herbaceous species and see the site in a range of conditions.

Analysis

Once you've gathered all this information, it has to be put together. A good rule of thumb is to work from below ground up - geology, soils, history, climate, vegetation, habitats, services and designations etc. Use maps to illustrate the different things and overlays for the key points. A working analysis plan that shows where the sunny areas are, the areas of boggy ground, high habitat value or particularly attractive (or ugly) views are is a really useful tool. A few things should start to stand out and this is where the appraisal comes in.

Appraisal

This is where you take all the information and decide which features are in need of work or have issues. In terms of landscape management, this might mean that an assessment of a shrub border shows that the plants are poorly maintained, over-crowded and that the soil is low in nutrients. The appraisal would then make a recommendation or a prescription that the bed needs removal, soil improvement and replanting when funds are available.

The Management Plan

A management plan is usually a set of documents that includes the survey and appraisal information, a baseplan, a management plan and maintenance schedules that become the means of implementing the decisions that have been made. There are different ways of structuring plans but for it to work, it has to be logical and easy to understand.

Aims and Objectives

A successful plan has a series of aims and objectives that can be met over time. One of the best reasons for producing a management plan is that it forces you to think about the site in a strategic, long-term way. What will the site be like in 20, 50  or even 100 years? What are the immediate problems that have to be solved in the next year, 5 years or decade? These are questions that are usually discussed in meetings with all the people involved in the site. This could be a committee, a PTA and teachers, pupils...You might even include a consultation process in the management plan where a survey is sent out asking for local opinion and ideas. This can be put into the survey section and can be a very useful tool for guiding what the actions are. For example, a survey might flag up that there is a shortage of seating or a lack of disabled access on the site or that vandals are a problem. These issues can be addressed in the management plan.

Examples of Aims and Objectives

Aim

  • To create a safe, welcoming site for all members of the community

Objectives

  • Improve site access
  • Include interpretation boards
  • Hold a community event twice a year
  • Encourage youth participation through rangering activities

Structuring the Management Plan

There are different ways to structure the document. If it's a small site, you might be able to cover the whole thing in one chapter. If it's a larger area, it may be broken into chunks and you might want to put the survey, analysis and appraisal information for each area together with the management prescriptions for ease of use so that each ‘chapter' can be pulled out when you are going to work on a specific area. You could:

  • Break the site into areas
  • Look at the analysis and appraisal for each area and come up with management prescriptions
  • Decide on the urgency/long term future
  • Link the prescription to a series of tasks in a GANTT chart or maintenance schedule

Example

Area 3b

Image

Description

New native planting to provide habitat and screening.

Issues

Weed encroachment, dog trampling and rabbit damage to planting.

Management Prescription

Improve fencing. Put rabbit guards in place. Maintain new planting to create a mixed age structure with thinning and replanting once the canopy has closed. Long term management to create shelter and habitat value.

This would link to a table or GANTT chart at the back of the document that becomes a quick reference for the tasks that need to be carried out each year.

Area 3b

Immediate Actions

Annual Management

5 years

10 years

Long Term

 Resources  By When  Completed

Rabbit guards

Weed control

Upgrade fencing

Thinning and replanting

Monitor and replant. Create mixed age structure with species diversity.

     

As you can see, this table lends itself to becoming an action plan with dates so that tasks can be monitored as ongoing, completed or unfinished due to funding, resources etc.

A management plan can also include sections on the financial success of a site. How will funds be raised for improvements? Can the advertising profile be improved? A landscape manager often has responsibility for the funding streams available, the publicity and events that take place on a site as well as day to day site management.

There is a lot of work involved in a management plan, but it is worth it. A plan can be put online and have tasks and information in a format that can be easily amended or updated - Outlook Access can be used or a web-based system where information can be held digitally.

It is really vital to keep the plan ‘alive'. Many sites have dusty, festering plans that were too big and unwieldy or written in a heavy way that no-one could be bothered to look at. If the plan can be made relevant and kept up-to-date with links to the maintenance schedule and flagged tasks that come up so that important things don't get forgotten, the site will run better.

The plan should be reviewed every five years.

Examples of Management Plans

School Management Plan Australian Example

Park Management Plan

Conservation Management Plan

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