Why and how to build nature-friendly housing developments
New guidelines published today show how new housing developments can be built in a way that provides people with greener, inspirational homes which help to reverse decades of wildlife and habitat decline.
‘Homes for people and wildlife - how to build housing in a nature-friendly way’ is published at a time when the Government has recently committed to building a further 300,000 homes a year until 2022. This means that about 36 square miles will be given over to new housing developments annually – that’s an area larger than Brighton & Hove every year*. The Wildlife Trusts believe that the natural environment must be put at the heart of planning in order to give the government a chance of meeting its commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it, and to build new homes and communities that people enjoy living in.
Rachel Hackett, Living Landscapes Development Manager for The Wildlife Trusts says:
“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 are calling for the current focus on numbers of new homes to be replaced by a visionary approach to where and how we build.
Rachel Hackett continues: “We should prioritise places for new housing that are already well served by infrastructure. We should avoid destroying wildlife sites and locate new houses in places where it can help to restore the landscape and aid natural recovery. It’s possible to create nature-friendly housing by planting wildlife-rich community green spaces, walkways, gardens, verges, roofs, wetlands and other natural features. These gains for wildlife improve people’s health and quality of life too.”
Redwing Fields: an example of nature-friendly house development in Shrewsbury
A partnership between independent house builder Shropshire Homes and Shropshire Wildlife Trust will see 2 ½ acres of land managed for nature at a new development in Underdale. Alongside the 43 houses being built, a strip of land close to the river will be looked after by the Trust. Native trees such as alder, birch, willow and hazel are being planted along with shrubs such as hawthorn and dog-rose, extending the woodland edge habitat offered by an existing hedgerow and enhancing foraging opportunities for bees and birds. The development’s name, Redwing Fields, refers to one of the species likely to benefit. Redwings, along with other thrushes, such as field fares, migrate here in winter from Scandinavia to feed on wild berries.
The Wildlife Trusts’ blueprint for new nature-friendly homes highlights the myriad of social, environmental and economic benefits of this approach:
- Benefits for wildlife – better protection for wildlife sites, more space for wildlife, improved connectivity and buildings that are more wildlife-friendly
- Benefits for residents – daily contact with nature, improved health, protection against climate extremes, safer transport routes, good sense of community
- Benefits for the economy and wider society – cost-effective environmental protection, employment, space to grow local food, healthier and happier communities putting less pressure on health and social services
- Benefits for developers – satisfied customers, market value, enhanced brand, improved recruitment, improved environmental ranking
Every year Wildlife Trusts work to influence local authority planners and respond to thousands of planning applications to benefit wildlife and people alike. We also work in partnership with developers to influence the landscape design in and around new developments such as at Cambourne in Cambridgeshire and Woodberry Wetlands in London. ‘Homes for people and wildlife - how to build housing in a nature-friendly way’ and case studies can be read here from 11th January.