Kingsbrook, a new era in wildlife-friendly housing

The RSPB is working with Barratt Developments and Aylesbury Vale District Council to set a new benchmark for wildlife-friendly housing.

Overview

The RSPB is leading a progressive approach to wildlife-friendly housing in conjunction with Barratt Developments  and Aylesbury Vale District Council. This award-winning partnership, which involves working with the national Barratt team and AVDC ecologists, aims to show that new homes need not be at the expense of the natural world.
 
Our advisory work on Barratt’s flagship Kingsbrook development, just outside Aylesbury, where ultimately 2450 homes will be constructed, has already resulted in the inclusion of bat and swift boxes, the retention of greenspace and the planting of orchards as well as hedgehog highways among the many measures taken to ensure wildlife thrives throughout the area.
 
By engaging with development companies, the RSPB is increasing the likelihood that wildlife is considered at the start of the design process. With an estimated 200,000 new houses to be built each year across the UK, there is an urgent need to ensure developments do not become sterile places with little wildlife. And research has shown that homes that welcome the natural world are good not just for wildlife, but also for human health and wellbeing.

Significantly, Government is taking notice of this work. Kingsbrook was highlighted as an exemplar site in the Government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment following a visit in September 2017 from the then Housing Minister, Alok Sharma. Sharma commented that new developments should “complement and enhance, rather than threaten, the local and natural environment”.
 
The Kingsbrook project has garnered extensive media coverage, including articles in The Telegraph and in Nature’s Home magazine, and has helped to spread the message that considering wildlife needs when constructing new homes benefits all involved.

Objectives

  • 60 per cent wildlife-friendly greenspace, excluding gardens. This sets a new standard, where the new housing will be surrounded by large areas of ponds, parks, meadows, orchards and nature reserve.
  • Wildlife corridors. Kingsbrook is being designed so that wildlife can move all around and through the greenspace and the residential areas. Whether it be hedges, strips of wildflower grassland or gaps under fences and walls, wildlife won't have the barriers they normally face.
  • Sustainable Urban Drainage. Rather than shunting rainwater straight underground into pipes, in many places it will be directed along rills and swales on the surface - great wildlife habitat - slowing the flow and using nature to clean the water.
  • Planting for wildlife, including a higher proportion than is usual of native shrubs, many hedges, areas of wildflower grassland for pollinators and butterflies, plus fruit trees in gardens.
  • All manner of wildlife homes, from birdboxes built into the walls of houses to places where amphibians can hibernate.

Progress

  • December 2013: Barratt Homes received outline planning permission for the development of Kingsbrook from Aylesbury Vale District Council
  • 2014-15: Detailed plans developed and agreed, informed by regular meetings with Aylesbury Vale District Council and the RSPB.
  • Spring 2015: Full ecological survey by RSPB scientists - the start of long-term research to find out how nature and people respond to the development.
  • Summer 2016: Construction started on “Oakfield”, the first of three villages that will make up Kingsbrook. Wildlife-friendly show home gardens created. Kingsbrook won a prestigious BIG Biodiversity Award – “Large Scale Permanent” category.
  • Autumn 2016: First Swift bricks incorporated into house walls, using the innovative new, affordable design of brick developed by Barratt Developments, Manthorpe Building Products Ltd, Action for Swifts and the RSPB. Guide to help Barratt staff deliver wildlife friendly developments published. 
  • Summer 2017: Wildlife observed using Kingsbrook’s wetland habitats included little egret, kingfisher and five species of dragonflies.
  • Autumn 2017: Barratt Homes won a What House? silver award in the Best Partnership Scheme category for Kingsbrook, reflecting the success of our collaborative working.
  • Spring 2018: A Kingsbrook map and guide was launched, showing residents the nature-rich areas that are being established and the wildlife they might see there.
  • Summer 2018: RSPB scientists commence research with new residents to find out how they are responding to the nature-friendly development.

Planned Work

  • Spring 2020: RSPB scientists repeat ecological surveys.
  • RSPB recognise that housing development across the country also needs to include sustainability measures that protect our wider environment, especially the use of renewable energy. Our sustainable policy team is working on such issues nationally.
  • For updates on the development itself, please refer to the Barratt website.

Contacts

Coast on a stormy day

Mike Pollard

Area Reserves Manager, South Midlands

mike.pollard@rspb.org.uk
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Urban and suburban Species: House sparrow Species: Sand martin Species: Swift Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Site protection