The Wildlife Trust calls for nature-friendly housing developments

New guidelines published by The Wildlife Trust show how new housing developments can be built to positively impact both nature and our urban environments.

Words by Rebecca Cameron

The Wildlife Trust has published a new set of guidelines on how to build more nature-friendly housing, entitled ‘Homes for people and wildlife – how to build housing in a nature-friendly way. As the government proceeds with their recent commitment to building an extra 300,000 homes every year (until 2022), these new guidelines could prove incredibly important and beneficial for communities, wellbeing, nature and wildlife.

© David Dunlop

The Wildlife Trust’s research has discovered that if the government continue to build a further 300,000 homes a year, around 36 square miles of land annually will become brand new housing developments. In response, The Wildlife Trust is putting an emphasis on the importance of the natural environment, believing that it must be put at the "heart of planning".

This would also provide the government with a chance of meeting its commitment to be “the first generation that leaves the environment in a better state than we found it”, while succeeding in building new homes and communities that people enjoy living in.

Every year, The Wildlife Trust works to build environmental awareness within local authorities, responding to thousands of planning applications to guarantee that the plans benefits the local wildlife. They also work with developers to influence different landscape designs, such as at Camborne in Cambridgeshire and Woodberry Wetlands in London.

The ‘Homes for people and wildlife’ publication contains a blueprint for new nature-friendly based homes which contain social, environmental and economic benefits; these could greatly affect communities, pushing them closer together and improving their wellbeing. As Rachel Hackett, Living Landscapes Development Manager for the Wildlife Trust 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.”

© Devon Wildlife Trust

"Over the past century we have lost natural habitats on an unprecedented scale,” she continues, “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 rain gardens which soak up floodwater, and [we can grow] 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.”

© Sarah Lambert

The Wildlife Trust is asking for the current focus on the numbers of new homes being created to shift; instead, they argue that it should be replaced by a visionary approach focusing on where and how we plan to build. They believe that the recovery of the lost habitats - which were lost over the past century - should be central to plans moving forwards. Along with this, their proposed approach to housing could also result in better protection for wildlife; communities could come into contact with nature every day, and environmental protection and employment would remain cost-effective.

© Don Lewis

 “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 they can help to restore the landscape and aid natural recovery,” Hackett continues, expending on her view. “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.”

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