The Wildlife Trusts are calling on developers, local authorities and Government to embrace a new, more holistic way of building: one that avoids damage to protected sites, and works with the natural surroundings to create gains for nature, and better health and well-being for residents. The next decade is likely to see hundreds of thousands of new homes built.
Housing developments can make a positive contribution to wildlife and to the health and wellbeing of those who live there if they are built in the right way and in the right place. There are two stages to this:
Location - we should prioritise places for housing that are already well served by infrastructure - identifying where to build so that development avoids 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. This requires an up-to-date and well-informed ecological network map, which identifies existing natural features and habitat, alongside areas where new habitats are needed.
Design - deciding how new housing developments and houses themselves are designed to integrate space for both wildlife and people, as well as to reduce carbon emissions and minimise water usage. This should also draw on local ecological knowledge and an understanding of local environmental assets – and how they fit together at a landscape-scale.
The Wildlife Trusts believe that all new housing developments must avoid damaging our last remaining wild places and should also include:
The Wildlife Trusts have pioneered the integration of wildlife into new developments for the past few decades. We've worked in partnership with developers to influence the design of new developments like Cambourne in Cambridgeshire and Woodberry Wetlands in London.
By providing expert advice to developers at all stages of planning and construction we have ensured that existing meadows, wetlands, hedgerows, trees and woods are retained, enhanced and joined up with wildlife-rich gardens, verges, amenity green space, cycle paths and walkways. The result is natural corridors weaving through the development and reaching out beyond.
These features add what is known as natural resilience: they reduce surface water flooding and improve air quality, for example. There are other benefits too: houses with high environmental standards and built-in roosting and nesting features; easy access for residents to safe, attractive green space for exercise, play and social interaction; and the priceless treasure of wildlife on your doorstep.
Read our new guidelines: Homes for people and wildlife - How to build housing in a nature-friendly way