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Sustainable homes and buildings

Solar panels, Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales

Image: Andy Hay

We want new construction and development to be sustainable. This means not only should they avoid negative impacts on the environment - they should enhance it, too.

In considering the needs of biodiversity, we promote a five-point approach to planning decisions:

1. Information
Is more information about the site's biological resource needed? Is more information about the development's potential effects needed? Is the significance of the effects clear? Can internal or external expertise help to inform the decision?

2. Avoidance
Have all adverse effects on wildlife and habitats been avoided wherever possible?

3. Mitigation
Where adverse effects are unavoidable, can they be minimised by the use of mitigation measures that can be guaranteed, such as by conditions or planning obligations/agreements?

4. Compensation
Where there will be residual adverse effects despite mitigation, can the harm be offset by compensatory measures? Can the compensatory measures be guaranteed by conditions or planning obligations/agreements?

5. New benefits
Where there would be no significant harm to species or habitats, are there opportunities to provide new benefits for wildlife, for example by habitat creation or enhancement? Can these new benefits be guaranteed by planning obligations/agreements?

Low- and zero-carbon development

We strongly support the take-up of low- and zero-carbon development for buildings. This is vital if we are to achieve the 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 required by the Climate Change Act 2008.

However, this must not be at the expense of protecting wildlife or achieving other sustainability goals such as minimising the use of water resources.

Eco-towns

Proposals for eco-towns, villages and quarters have been made in many parts of the UK. Provided the location and design do not cause any harm to wildlife, we support high sustainability standards for all new development, such as the Code for Sustainable Homes or equivalent measures of sustainability for non-domestic buildings.

The Town and Country Planning Association has published a series of worksheets for eco-town developers. The worksheets on biodiversity and green infrastructure are particularly useful, and could be applied to all new development, not just eco-towns.