How can development increase biodiversity?

How can development increase biodiversity?

It seems like an oxymoron, creating a new development on greenfield land yet delivering more wildlife habitats and better biodiversity? It is now emerging as a government priority to show that developments can, through better land management and thoughtful planting, create environments that better mix the houses we need with wildlife habitats. Mayfields has taken this principle to its heart.

The UK, indeed the entire planet, has undergone a significant loss of biodiversity in the last few decades, with some scientists declaring the globe is undergoing its sixth mass extinction event, comparable to the end of the dinosaurs.

In October this year, leading UK environmental scientists and groups published the State of Nature report, which made for bleak reading. The report found that 41% of surveyed species have seen population decline since the 1970s and found that the UK is “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.” Whilst there are many factors influencing this decline, intensive agriculture, with its excessive use of pesticides, is a large part of the problem. Indeed, the UK is a signatory of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and is currently only on course to meet five of the twenty Aichi targets agreed in 2010.

So how can planned, long term development practically help improve habitats? The current site for most of the development is intensive agricultural land, which leaves little space for nature. Intensive agriculture is responsible for a huge amount of biodiversity loss, be it through the creation of large areas of single plant species to the use of pesticides and chemicals to control insects.

Furthermore, none of the land for the proposed development is designated as a nature reserve, such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).

When looking at helping improve biodiversity, important habitats such as existing trees, rivers and hedgerows are important anchors – providing a richer habitat than the surrounding fields. These will be retained and improved through better management. Our proposals also include large areas of open space, removed from intensive agricultural use and made available for creating new habitats through careful planting of native species. The long-term future of these green spaces will be secured through establishment of a community trust to manage the site, ensuring their careful management long into the future.

The use of community trusts to manage green spaces is common in parts of the UK, especially Scotland where the Scottish Land Fund provides support to such groups. For instance, the Viewpark Conservation Group from Lanarkshire owns a 171-acre site dubbed ‘our green lung’ which helps improve local health, wellbeing, recreation and education whilst protecting the area against future development. There are also much bigger community trusts, such as Glendale, which maintain facilities, pathways and engages in major land management programmes for the benefit of the community. We would look to replicate the success of these trusts at Mayfields, so that local people see the benefits of green spaces and enhanced biodiversity.

The abundance of fauna within the site will be significantly increased under the scheme with a focus on providing opportunities for notable and priority species and increasing habitat connectivity across the site. Overall, there will be a substantial net gain for biodiversity from the Mayfields proposals, contributing to the recovery of nature in the county.

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