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Building with Nature certification scheme, UK

Building with Nature

The UK’s first certification scheme for green infrastructure was launched on 9 November, with companies including Persimmon Homes, Bloor Homes, HAB Housing and Bathurst Development Limited already signed up to the initiative.  In this article, we find out more…

Building with NatureAll developments now need to demonstrate that they have included green infrastructure in their plans and Building with Nature aims to support companies to meet these requirements. The benchmark is available for housing and commercial developments and covers three key themes – wildlife, water and wellbeing – through the incorporation of features such as play areas, street trees, natural flood management solutions, parks, allotments and ponds.

It has been piloted in the South West of England and will now be rolled out across the UK.

Building with Nature has been developed by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the University of the West of England’s Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments. It encompasses the planning and design stages as well as the longterm maintenance of green infrastructure features. The pioneering motorway service station, Gloucester Services, has been awarded the benchmark, and three planned housing schemes have been designed using the Building with Nature benchmark: Chesterton Farm (Cirencester), Elderberry Walk (Bristol) and Elms Park (Cheltenham).

“The benefits of high-quality green infrastructure are well documented, but until now there has been no benchmark for standards and no system for ensuring that elements are maintained,” says Dr Gemma Jerome, Building with Nature’s Project Manager. “Through our pilot projects we have shown that developers have a strong desire to deliver high-quality green infrastructure. Our research has focused on how we can design and deliver places which are economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, and contribute positively to healthy and diverse communities.”

“There is no time to lose to ensure that many more developments are resilient to the negative impacts of extreme weather and climate change, and that the planning system is supported to deliver places where children and adults of all ages feel safe and can thrive. We also need to design places in our towns and cities where nature can flourish.”

Building with Nature has drawn on existing green infrastructure guidance and has worked with developers, policy makers, local planning authorities, built environment consultants, public health professionals and citizens, to create a set of robust standards.

Mike Roberts, Managing Director of HAB Housing commented, “We always try to put the natural environment at the heart of our schemes, so we have greatly enjoyed working with the Building with Nature team on the development of the certification scheme. We look forward to getting our first Building with Nature rating at our Elderberry Walk scheme in Southmead, Bristol.”

Cotswold District Council’s ‘Green Infrastructure, Open Space and Play Space Strategy’ has recently been awarded Building with Nature candidate status. “It forms part of the evidence base for the local plan, highlighting which green infrastructure assets should be protected and enhanced, and guides the design of new features through new development,” says Dr Jerome.

Building with Nature

How Does it Work?
The starting point is a set of core standards; these define the basic approach to green infrastructure. There are 23 Building with Nature standards in total. This includes five core standards, six wellbeing standards, six water standards and six wildlife standards. These standards include alignment with the local policy context and a commitment to long-term maintenance.

Next, there are three key themes: wellbeing, water and wildlife:

Wellbeing Standards – Requires delivery of health and wellbeing benefits through the green and blue features on the site, making sure they can be easily accessed by people close to where they live and work.

Water Standards – Secures a commitment to improving water quality, on site and in the wider area; reducing the risk of flooding; and managing water naturally for maximum benefit.

Wildlife Standards – Aims to protect and enhance wildlife, creating networks where nature can thrive, and supporting the creation of places which more effectively deliver a net gain for wildlife.

There are three possible outcomes: Candidate status, Achieved and Excellent.

Case Studies
A development can only be certified post-construction. For developments which apply pre-construction there is Building with Nature candidate status to recognise the quality of green infrastructure at the planning stage. The following planned developments have been certified with Building with Nature candidate status:

Chesterton Farm, by Bathurst Development Limited, will be a mixed-use development comprising 2,350 residential dwellings, business units, and community facilities on a greenfield site. The development will include a range of features to deliver benefits to people and nature: houses will be built with integrated bird boxes and there will be an allotment area and a network of pedestrian routes and cycle paths linking up to the town centre. Sustainable drainage systems will help to manage surface water run off while creating new habitats for wildlife.

Elderberry Walk will comprise 161 homes on the site of a former school, and is being developed by HAB Housing. The development is focused around a central green street, with retained trees, providing sources of food for bats and an area
where surface water can run off. The scheme includes a communal wildlife garden and edible planting.

Elms Park is a joint venture between Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes. This mixed-use development in Cheltenham will comprise 4,115 homes as well as business space for up to 5,000 new jobs. The masterplan includes a high percentage of green infrastructure and incorporates new wildlife habitats, space for play and recreation, a central blue-green corridor to enhance the existing river corridor, and sustainable drainage features to maximise flood resilience.

In addition, Gloucester Services, a pioneering motorway services facility on the M5, has been awarded “achieved” status to reflect its approach to integrating green infrastructure features on site, including wetland and meadow areas, and complements the surrounding landscape character.

Wildlife Trusts in other parts of the country are working with developers to ensure that developments are designed with people’s wellbeing and nature in mind, including Trumpington Meadow, Cambridgeshire (Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust) and Priest Hill, Surrey (Surrey Wildlife Trust).

The Building with Nature team is now working with the Town and Country Planning Association to recruit demonstration projects across the UK. Developers and planners can apply for Building with Nature certification at any stage. For information about how to apply and fees, contact Dr Gemma Jerome on 07715 563112 and gemma.jerome@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk

About the Author: Dr Gemma Jerome is a planner who specialises in green infrastructure and community building. She has recently completed her planning doctorate where she conducted research into the characteristics of green infrastructure at the residential and community scale. Gemma is particularly interested in how partnership working can make green infrastructure features more resilient into the long term. She came to work with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the University of the West of England to lead on the Building with Nature project.

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