Suffolk Wildlife Trust in nature-friendly house-building call

A new nature-friendly approach to house-building is being called for by The Wildlife Trusts. Picture

A new nature-friendly approach to house-building is being called for by The Wildlife Trusts. Picture: DAVID DUNLOP - Credit: DAVID DUNLOP

National wildlife body says ‘visionary approach’ is needed in new homes developments.

James Meyer, senior conservation planner for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, has backed The Wildlife Trusts'

James Meyer, senior conservation planner for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, has backed The Wildlife Trusts' call for a new approach to house-building. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: � James Bass 2017

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has added its voice to calls for new housing developments to be nature-friendly - against a backdrop of thousands of homes being approved and built across the county and catastrophic losses suffered by many species.

A document published this week by The Wildlife Trusts - the umbrella body that unites all the UK’s 47 county trusts - shows 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.”

The report, Homes for People and Wildlife - How to Build Housing in a Nature-friendly Way, comes at a time when the Government is committed to building a further 300,000 homes a year until 2022. Annually an area of about 36sq miles would be needed for such a number and The Wildlife Trusts said: “That’s an area more than double the size of Ipswich every year.”

Planners have estimated in recent years that Suffolk will need 70,000 new homes by 2031 to accommodate its growing population. Such an amount would bring the number of homes in the county up to about 400,000. Last year, Suffolk Coastal District Council alone was in consultation over the allocation of 10,111 homes up to 2036.

The Wildlife Trusts said it believed 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.”

Every year The Wildlife Trusts, including Suffolk Wildlife Trust and its counterpart in Essex, works to influence local authority planners and responds to thousands of planning applications to benefit wildlife and people alike.

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The umbrella organisation called for the “current focus on numbers of new homes to be replaced by a visionary approach to where and how we build.”

Rachel Hackett, the organisation’s Living Landscapes development manager, said: “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.”

James Meyer, Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s senior conservation planner added: “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 such an approach, such as:

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.

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