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19/11/2020

Tee up for success: How developers can collaborate with golf courses to deliver housing while meeting environmental requirements

Golf / iStock-172212862

Golf clubs – which occupy around 2 per cent of the UK's land area – can be a crucial ally in the battle to increase the nation's biodiversity, argues Karen Colebourn

With the protection of the environment becoming further ingrained in the national consciousness, the way in which developers address biodiversity requirements such as biodiversity net gain (BNG) or species protection will be under public scrutiny as well as scrutiny through the planning system. By seizing opportunities to protect and enhance the environment through delivery of their projects, forward thinking developers are already realising the associated commercial and reputational benefits.

Ahead of the Environment Bill becoming law, many local authorities are already mandating through planning policy that new development must deliver an increase in biodiversity by up to 20 per cent. If delivering BNG on-site makes a development unviable, developers can invest in boosting biodiversity at local off-site locations. This is where golf clubs – which account for almost 2 per cent of the UK’s land area, with many sited around the edges of towns and cities near areas allocated for development – can come in.  

"Uncertainty around Covid-19 has incentivised many golf clubs and other leisure-focused estate-based businesses to look at generating an additional reliable, supporting income"

Uncertainty around Covid-19 has incentivised many golf clubs and other leisure-focused estate-based businesses to look at generating an additional reliable, supporting income from unused areas of their land. As outlined in our series of reports, Building for Biodiversity, many of these businesses could provide locally appropriate BNG measures or create a new home for translocated species such as reptiles – increasing the quality of the local landscape for people and wildlife, whilst also generating an additional income funded by a developer. 

So, taking BNG as an example – how could this work in practice? If a developer is unable to meet their BNG requirements within the project site, in the first instance they should work with their ecological consultants to discover whether local landowners have registered land for delivery of biodiversity net gain with the relevant authority. However, if a registration scheme is not yet in place, the developer should work with their consultancy to identify potentially suitable BNG sites, and approach local landowners directly to suggest a bespoke agreement for their mutual – and the environments – benefit.  

Whichever route is taken, the golf course would continue to operate as usual while under-used areas of land off the fairway generate supplementary income streams for the landowner, deliver a developer’s BNG requirements, increase the appeal of the golf club environment for customers and deliver long-term habitat creation and management goals on behalf of both businesses. 

Karen Colebourn is director and principal ecological consultant, Ecological Planning & Research Ltd

Photo | iStock

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