The Wildlife Trusts has called on government to build nature-friendly communities, releasing guidelines on developing environmentally conscious, quality housing to repair the recent and rapid decline of wildlife habitats.
‘Homes for people and wildlife – how to build housing in a nature-friendly way’ comes in the wake of Government’s latest commitment to building 300,000 new homes annually until 2022, meaning each year 35 square miles of natural landscape will be turned into housing developments.
The Wildlife Trusts has called for Britain’s natural environment to be positioned at the core of planning, allowing government to meet its pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it was found.
Since 1930, England and Wales has lost 97% of its lowland meadows, the charity states. Furthermore, more than half of wild plant and animal numbers have declined over the past 50 years, with 15% being at risk of disappearing from the UK altogether.
Though some of this loss is due to intensive agriculture, housing developments continue to be a major contributor, reducing wildlife space and disrupting ecological processes, it explains.
In its report, The Wildlife Trusts asks for the focus on quantity to be replaced by an approach considerate of location and build method. It asks government to prioritise places that are already well served by infrastructure, avoiding wildlife sites by building instead in areas where a development would aid natural recovery.
The Wildlife Trusts’ guideline for nature-friendly housing highlights social, environmental and economic benefits of its approach. These include better protection for wildlife sites, with improved connectivity between landscapes and buildings, which will simultaneously create healthier environments for people to live.
The custom build sector is an advocate of better placemaking, which by default is more capable of incorporating natural landscapes in developments, considering the space between houses as much as the homes themselves.
Cohousing groups are especially dedicated to greener spaces, often factoring in shared outdoor spaces such as allotments and gardens and designing car-free, environmentally-protective communities that planners are sympathetic to. Many commercial sites, such as Wynyard Park and Graven Hill, illustrate placemaker’s utilising large green areas.
Living Landscapes Development Manager for The Wildlife Trusts, Rachel Hackett, commented: “A huge challenge lies ahead – thousands of new houses are to be built yet we need to restore the natural world.
“We’re calling on the government and local authorities to build beautiful, nature-friendly communities in the right places. Over the past century we have lost natural habitats on an unprecedented scale. Yet nature has its own innate value. It also makes us happy and we depend on the things that it gives us.
“Our new guidelines show that it’s possible to have both, so people can enjoy birdsong, reap the benefits of raingardens which soak up floodwater, and plants that bees and other pollinators need to survive. With good design the costs of doing this are a tiny proportion of the overall cost of a housing development, but represent a big investment for the future.”
The Wildlife Trusts is dedicated to influencing local planning authorities and responding to planning applications, in order to benefit both wildlife and people, working in partnership with developers to place natural landscapes at the heart of housing schemes.
Words: Jen Grimble
New housing will need to balance the needs of wildlife, and that means improving the state of our natural resources as well as masterplanning schemes that make the most of their natural settings.
I think few people would be against ecology sound development, other than the volume builders who will be considering the cost of not building on every inch. Building higher with more space between seems a simple way of achieving this, although it does drive premiums.