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Guide: Biodiversity must be studied early in planning process

Words: Laura Edgar
Hedgehog / Shutterstock_734181115

Biodiversity should be considered at the earliest stages of planning for residential development in order to encourage wildlife to live there and help to reverse habitat decline, according to a guide published last week (27 April).

As the government seeks to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, housebuilders and developers must consider how to maintain sustainability and ensure a positive impact in light of the decline in wildlife and the threat of the climate crisis.

In 2019, the State of Nature report – based on a collaboration between conservation and research organisations across the UK – found that 41 per cent of UK species had declined since 1970.

Published by the National House Building Council (NHBC) Foundation in partnership with the RSPB and Barratt Developments, the guidance sets out how the housebuilding industry can incorporate green infrastructure into new-build homes as well as enhance biodiversity within developments to deliver public health benefits.

Key topics in Biodiversity in New Housing Developments: Creating Wildlife-Friendly Communities include:

  • Implementing Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) which mimic natural processes in managing rainfall through the use of landscape form and vegetation.
  • Installing roost bricks for bats and designing lighting plans in a bat-friendly way.
  • Putting in bird nest bricks that provide permanent nest features for declining species such as swifts.
  • Ensuring boundaries that enable hedgehogs to move freely through a housing development.

Beccy Speight, CEO at the RSPB said: “The housebuilding industry is uniquely placed in having an opportunity to create not just sustainable houses, but new, sustainable communities, where people thrive alongside wildlife. This guide is a great introduction to the principles and practicalities of creating wildlife-friendly communities and a great addition to the sustainable housing toolkit.

“I hope that the industry will embrace it and help to drive positive change. We all have our part to play as we seek to revive our world.”

Richard Smith, NHBC’s head of standards, innovation and research commented: “As we head towards COP26, we want to support those in the housing and construction sector to think more about how they can better integrate biodiversity and climate resilience into new home developments to help to achieve the country’s climate change goals and improve health and wellbeing in local communities. Biodiversity Net Gain will soon become mandatory in England so there’s no excuse not to start looking at these issues now.”

Biodiversity in New Housing Developments: Creating Wildlife-Friendly Communities can be downloaded from the NHBC website.

Read more:

News report: Planning for nature's recovery

Image credit | Shutterstock