Julie MacDonald, GiGL Data Officer
We all know that London is an historic city, but perhaps not so many of us give much thought to its geological history. The London Geodiversity Partnership (LGP), which formed in 2008, is a group of individuals and organisations with an interest in geology and the environment, who aim to promote and protect the capital’s vast geodiversity ‘the variety of rocks, fossils, minerals, landforms, soils and natural processes, such as weathering, erosion and sedimentation, that underlie and determine the character of our natural landscape and environment’.
The LGP is influential in the designation of local geological sites across London. Designation of these sites is one way of recognising and protecting important geodiversity and landscape features for future generations to enjoy. Sites are designated as either regionally or locally important geological sites (RIGS or LIGS). They are designated for their historic value, their aesthetic landscape value or their value for professional and amateur earth scientist study.
In London, sites range from natural exposures such as the black park gravel on Putney Heath, to natural landforms, such as the London Clay hillock near Chingford Hatch, to disused quarry works, such as Riddlesdown Quarry- the finest chalk exposure in London.
In 2009, the London Geodiversity Partnership and the GLA published a London Plan implementation report called London’s Foundations, which documented the city’s geodiversity, audited its key sites and listed those designated as RIGS and LIGS. For this report, designated sites were mapped by the British Geological Association and the GLA. This GIS dataset has now been given to GiGL to manage and maintain on behalf of the London Geodiversity Partnership.
London’s Foundations is currently being revised by the GLA, which has given the geodiversity partnership an opportunity to recommend more sites across London for designation. GiGL are working with the partnership to digitise the new site boundaries and supply site and London wide maps for the new document. The process of site recommendation and designation is on-going as the partnership continue to audit sites across the city. GiGL will continue to work with the partnership to keep the geodiversity dataset up to date.
Local geological sites are non-statutory designations equivalent to sites of importance for nature conservation (SINCs). RIGS are equivalent to metropolitan SINCs and LIGS are equivalent to sites of borough or local importance. There are also seven statutory SSSIs in Greater London designated for their geological features. GiGL now supplies information about RIGS and LIGS alongside information about SINCs in their data search reports.
This is helping the LGP raise awareness of geodiversity sites and helping to encourage the inclusion of recommended geodiversity sites into local development frameworks. It is important that clients, such as environmental consultancies, know about the geological value of sites so that development plans can be altered to prevent any damage to sensitive areas or to enhance the educational value of geological features.
As well as designating sites, the London Geodiversity Partnership works to raise awareness of London’s geology. In 2010, they published an action plan which provides a framework for understanding, conserving and using London’s geodiversity resources. As part of this they are also involved in educational projects, such as Building London, which provided a summary of building stone resources in London, and designing a geological Green Chain Walk, a geotrail that runs from the Thames Barrier to Lesnes Abbey.
More information about the geodiversity dataset can be found on the GiGL website or more information about the London Geodiversity Partnership can be found on their website, www.londongeopartnership.org.uk.