Boosting Biodiversity in Building Projects - The Role of Wildflower Meadows
Housing developers can play a key role in protecting and enhancing biodiversity. Wildflower meadows are a low cost, low maintenance, landscaping solution for boosting biodiversity in building projects, providing essential habitat for wildlife and providing communities with much-valued green space.
It’s estimated that we need to build around 340,00 new homes each year to address the UK housing shortage. We also need to build more homes for wildlife. Are these two needs at odds with each other or is there a way to build biodiversity into housing developments in order to create thriving, natural spaces for both people and wildlife?
This is the concern addressed by the Biodiversity Net Gain requirement, new legislation which is being introduced as part of the Government’s 2020 Environment Bill. New developments are required to meet a 10% increase in biodiversity per site which must be maintained for a minimum of 30 years. It can be achieved either through the enhancement of existing biodiversity or through the creation of new habitats. It’s great news for wildlife.
And it’s not just the wildlife that will benefit from boosting biodiversity in housing projects. Developments that include wildlife-rich green spaces are good for people too. We know that access to nature is important for well-being and a recent study found a strong correlation between the amount of green space around a person’s home and their feelings of life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth. The value of attractive, wildlife-rich green spaces is reflected in property prices with the ONS estimating that green and blue space adds £2,813 to the price of an average house in the UK.
So, how is it done? There are many ways to boost biodiversity on-site including planting orchards and hedgerows, creating wildlife ponds and using green roofs and walls. One of the best solutions that has multiple benefits is the planting of locally appropriate, native wildflower-rich grassland. Wildflower meadows, with their unparalleled plant diversity, are an important home for pollinators that are an integral part of our food system. They also provide a rich ecosystem for a vast number of invertebrates, birds and mammals including several species on the priority conservation list. Shockingly, we’ve lost 97% of our species-rich grassland in the last century with the remaining isolated fragments covering less than 1% of land in the UK. We need to create new meadows and fast. The new BNG requirements are an excellent opportunity to incorporate species-rich grassland into new developments and increase the amount of this crucial habitat in areas all around the country.
However, to be successful, designing and implementing species-rich habitats including wildflower meadows will have to be done properly. It will be important to ensure effective design and seek skilled ecological advice in order to avoid costly design overhauls and lengthy extensions to the planning process. It will be worth this initial effort. Forward-thinking developers will be rewarded with increased sales and returns on investment whilst playing an important role in the provision of high-quality, long-term biodiversity enhancements.