New guidelines call for homes for people and wildlife

Thursday 11th January 2018

We want to protect wildlife if homes are builtWe want to protect wildlife if homes are built

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 in the North West and the rest of the UK.

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. 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.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust believes new estates could be detrimental to the region’s wildlife and local people’s enjoyment of nature unless they are developed with care and attention to the needs of the environment. Senior Policy Officer Dave Dunlop said: “In Lancashire, we understand there is a great need for housing, particularly affordable homes for young people trying to get on the property ladder, but any plans must take into account our region’s diverse wildlife. We really need to stress the importance of green space and natural corridors, through which wildlife can move and increase. Any developments need to take into account the vital wildlife networks that we have created in the North West and across the United Kingdom and take the opportunity to create more.”

The Wildlife Trust is asking for regulations for developers to include high quality habitat to match local wildlife priorities. This would include bat boxes, bricks or lofts and bird boxes on all housing, to reflect the species within the area; and green roofs and walls where appropriate.

One of the Wildlife Trust’s aims is to get people out into their local wild areas and even their own gardens, which obviously has health benefits. Mr Dunlop said: “The Government should be encouraging and enabling developers and local government planners to create a network of streets, open spaces and parks. There should be safe routes linking these to homes and schools, allowing children to both play in their own neighbourhoods and move around without traffic danger by facilitating walking and cycling for utility, recreation and health promotion.”

Rachel Hackett continued: “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.”

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.