Government must build nature-friendly homes, says Wildlife Trusts

As the government sets out its stall to build 300,000 new homes every year until 2022, the Wildlife Trusts has called on ministers to revamp its housing strategy and put the natural environment “at the heart of planning”.

A new report entitled 'Homes for people and wildlife - how to build housing in a nature-friendly way' highlights how England and Wales have lost 97% of lowland meadows since 1930 and those losses show no sign of halting. The charity says there needs to be a refocused strategy which ensures that new developments are "nature-friendly" and capable of delivering a host of benefits for both residents and wildlife.

The guidelines published claim to provide people with greener homes which help to reverse decades of wildlife and habitat decline. The measures include retaining existing meadows, wetlands and woods, and joining them to wildlife gardens, green spaces and cycle paths. Design elements like water permeable drives, grass roofs and renewable energy would all help to reduce housing impact. 

"A huge challenge lies ahead - thousands of new houses need to be built yet we need to restore the natural world."
Rachel Hackett, Wildlife Trusts.

Rachel Hackett, living landscapes development manager for The Wildlife Trusts 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. 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.”

The benefits of the Wildlife Trusts’ blueprint for new nature-friendly homes is said to be four-fold: 

  • 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

Just yesterday, housing secretary Sajid Javid launched a new national housing agency, Homes England, in a bid to get the country building more homes. According to Javid, the agency will have “a lot more power” in the way of financial resources and help source brownfield sites for housebuilding.

Commenting on the Wildlife Trusts strategy, Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “Councils are committed to seeing housing developments that protect and enhance the natural environment and enable wildlife habitats to thrive and flourish. But they need the planning tools to make sure developers build good quality homes in the right places. Government should work with councils to establish a clear, robust and transparent viability procedure which ensures the delivery of affordable housing, infrastructure and other amenities that communities need to back development and create great places to live.”

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