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A new era for nature-led development?

With the governments’ recent commitment to building an extra 300,000 homes a year until 2022, there is an ever increasing pressure on land for development, at an increasing threat to wildlife. Read this article by Ecologist Rosie McEwing on how we could develop homes for both people and wildlife alike: 

A document recently published by The Wildlife Trusts offers an answer, calling for a redesign of all new housing developments, to one where wildlife and nature take priority within a ‘green rewilding’ of our ‘living landscape’. Whilst it’s not the first time we’ve heard these somewhat, slightly cryptic phrases, the Trusts argue that now is the time for action.

Using a two-pronged approach, they highlight the multiple environmental, economical and social benefits that can be achieved by shifting the priority of new builds towards the ‘where and how’ we build for nature, in order to achieve human and wildlife combined benefits.

Photo credit: The Wildlife Trusts – Housing vision illustration

Where?

“New housing should be located in areas that are already well served by existing infrastructure and should avoid harm to the existing environmental assets of an area. Housing should be targeted at places where it can have a positive environmental impact to help achieve landscape restoration and recovery.”

How?

“This requires an up-to-date and well-informed ecological network map, which identifies existing natural features and habitats, alongside areas where new habitats are needed to restore ecosystems and help wildlife recover.”

Through this approach, we expect to see a greater integration of ponds, wetlands and open wild green spaces within our built communities, to not only provide and enhance habitats for local wildlife, but to improve community living and development investment returns. Through this greening, street trees and open green space provide us with shade, oxygen, water and air regulation. They also help address public health challenges associated with urbanisation, providing areas for mental and physical stimulation to tackle problems such as poor mental health, limited social cohesion and cardiovascular disease.

How can Urban Green help?

These ideas are not new by any means. Urban Green have been working on schemes with these principles at their heart for a long time. For example, recent collaboration with the HCA and Story Homes on the landscape masterplan at Cottam Hall, Preston, showed enhanced public amenities and maximized environmental value of 330 residential units, alongside neighbouring parks and canalside walkways.

In a more holistic approach to development, our ecologists and environmental experts should be the first on scene to influence site designs, working closely with our planners, architects and landscape architects to provide successful and healthy housing developments that sail smoothly through the planning process. This should then continue to translate on the ground, with housebuilders maintaining strong links of communication, working alongside proactive ecologists to achieve benefits for all.

The questions now are how do we maintain and manage these wilder areas to maintain their biodiversity benefit in the long term? And, how do we ensure that these sites are fully integrated with one another to maintain a wildlife benefit on the landscape scale?

Urban Green can help you answer these on a site-by-site case, providing bespoke services within a multidisciplinary team. From initial site scoping, mapping and habitat assessment on a landscape scale, and the integration of wildlife into our landscaping and digital design teams.

We fully support the work of The Wildlife Trusts and look forward to playing an integral role in the development of more and more of the wildlife-friendly housing developments of the future.

Read the full guidelines written by The Wildlife Trusts here:

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