There’s no doubt that our natural environment is in trouble. You only have to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television to hear about the stark reality. Consequently, the requirement for development to consider ecological issues is firmly embedded in legislation and the planning system.

The good news is that if biodiversity is taken into account at the design stage, it is relatively easy to make effective yet simple wins for ecology as part of new developments – making the process of obtaining planning permission that much smoother and helping to bolster our impoverished natural world.

In this post we look at five ways to incorporate biodiversity enhancements into schemes.

1. Wildlife accommodation
Just like us, animals need somewhere to live and the sad reality is that due to habitat degradation and fragmentation, wildlife is finding it increasingly difficult to find refuge in our environment. Helping them out by installing boxes (e.g. for birds, bats and invertebrates) as an integral part of development is a cost-effective way to boost the biodiversity value of a site. However, wildlife also needs good quality habitat in which to find food, refuge and to disperse.

2. Living buildings
Rather than being a hindrance to wildlife, if designed sensitively, there are a myriad of ways to use buildings as refuges for species. Landscaping our roof-tops and walls with ecologically-driven planting schemes not only benefits wildlife, but provides building benefits too, as well as increasing the wellbeing of occupiers.

3. Planting
Wildflower meadows, tree-planting, hedgerow planting, bog gardens … the list is endless when it comes to the types of planting that can be incorporated into a scheme. The general rule of any planting scheme is that species should be native, locally sourced and be locally appropriate, although there are certainly non-native species of plants that are beneficial to wildlife. Including planting strips of trees, hedgerows and wildflowers in car parking areas, for example, is a simple way to help wildlife and boost the wellbeing of users, in addition to other benefits such as reducing surface-water runoff.

4. Build a pond
It is said that building a pond is the most beneficial thing you can do to help wildlife. Even the smallest of water features can have a positive effect. Designing a pond for wildlife needs to incorporate a few features that differentiate it from an ornamental pond, both in its construction and introduction of species; for example, fish are not usually introduced to wildlife ponds as they can predate on other species such as amphibians.

5. Create permeable spaces that connect to the wider landscape
One of the most damaging effects of development on wildlife is fragmentation of habitats, whereby solid boundaries, lacking in vegetation, inhibit wildlife movement across our wider landscapes. It is therefore really important to make sure that wildlife can move through our developments. This is achieved by ensuring that boundary treatments allow for animals to pass through them and by bolstering boundaries with planting where possible e.g. creating lines of trees and zones of ground cover planting. It is also important to think beyond the confines of the red-line site boundary – look to what lies beyond in terms of habitat within the wider area, and look to bolster that connection when planning the development’s landscaping scheme.

In order to maximise the biodiversity potential of a site, it is important to seek advice from a suitably qualified ecologist, so do get in touch – our ecologists are here to help.