News Round-Up

‘Toolkit’ for housing providers to support wildlife and boost residents’ wellbeing

Ecologists at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) have launched a ‘Biodiversity Toolkit’ to enable housing providers and residents support wildlife on their estates.

Connecting and interacting with nature has been shown to be important for people’s physical and mental health – this has been brought to the fore during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The toolkit, which was developed by UKCEH in conjunction with Southern Housing Group and other partners*, provides a range of ways to improve biodiversity on housing estates. These options can be tailored according to housing density, budget available and the level of maintenance that would be possible.

Available at www.shgroup.org.uk/toolkit, the toolkit includes more than 20 wildlife management options suitable for housing developments. It also provides a guide on how best to improve green spaces for wildlife while involving residents in key decision making.

UKCEH hopes other housing providers across the UK will use the toolkit to make changes in management practices on their estates to provide much-needed habitats for wildlife and improve residents’ health and wellbeing.

Jodey Peyton, UKCEH ecologist, said: “Urban development is one of the causes of habitat loss, deterioration and fragmentation of natural areas. This has led to significant declines in a wide range of animal and plant species, particularly over the past 50 years.

“Green spaces in urban habitats have great potential for supporting lots of wildlife and improving people’s wellbeing.

“Our new toolkit advises housing providers and residents on measures they can implement themselves, offering a range of affordable and achievable wildlife management options to help reverse the long-term decline in biodiversity in urban areas.”

A pilot scheme introducing some wildlife-friendly measures was carried out on a Southern Housing Group estate in Bracknell last year.

The variety of wildflowers was increased through both planting and by leaving a proportion of grassland unmown. Shelters for bees and other invertebrates, including so-called ‘bug hotels’, were distributed around the estate along with bird and bat nesting boxes on trees and buildings.

Patryk Szczerba, Southern Housing Group’s Sustainability Manager, said: “We were delighted to be involved with this project. As a business that develops land in both rural and urban settings we’re determined to encourage the return of wildlife to the built environment. It can be as simple as making a slightly different choice of plants for a hedgerow or grassy area. A commitment to biodiversity doesn’t need to come with high financial or human resource investment.”

UKCEH’s work on the toolkit was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Header image: Measures to encourage biodiversity such as wildflower meadows, bug hotels and bat boxes were introduced in Bracknell. Credit: John Vince.