Marne-la-Vallée is the new ‘ecocity’ immediately to the east of the main conurbation of Paris. The ambition of EPAMarne and EPAFrance is to:
‘Create a sustainable and desirable city, a European city of the century that responds to major challenges in terms of energy transition, natural resource preservation, climate change, tensions on public and private finances ..., to adapt projects to the new expectations of citizens.'
In 2016, the governing body for the region, EPAmarne, launched a new initiative called ‘Happy Biodiversity’. Its purpose was to improve the territory’s ability to attract biodiversity, both from the point of view of preserving biodiversity itself and for its huge value to people in the provision of ecosystem services, especially biophilic benefits.
EPAmarne selected two pilot proposed redevelopment sites in the territory and commissioned Biodiversity by Design to address what could be achieved in theory and practice in the context of moderate to very high development density. EPAMarne felt that Biodiversity by Design’s cutting edge experience from recent projects exemplifying ecourbanism in the UK and elsewhere could help to take green design in the region to the ‘next level’.
We made several visits to the project sites and key references sites throughout Marne-la-Vallée and its surroundings to obtain a good understanding of the nature and quality of the ‘best’ habitats in the region. We reviewed detailed assessment and design documentation that had been produced in relation to both of these sites and also undertook an extensive review of relevant planning policy, legislation and readily available information on the biodiversity, geography of the region to inform our advice. We also produced a high level overview of the current status of green design and vegetated architecture in France.
We concluded that whilst the EIA process was rigorous and addressed mitigation for protected species in some detail it did not focus sufficiently on net gain for biodiversity and the optimisation of ecosystem service provision. We provided a series of key principles that, if followed, could greatly enhance the provision of both, especially in dense urban and high-rise contexts.