Our main goal is to make sure that the homes the country needs are built where they are needed most, but we are also committed to creating sustainable and well-designed places that protect and enhance the natural environment.
The former Lea Castle Hospital site near Kidderminster in Worcestershire is surrounded by forest which is home to a wide range of plant and animal species.
In order to create a community that functions in harmony with this unique setting, we worked with partners from the Worcestershire Green Infrastructure Partnership (WGIP) and borough and county environmentalists in our role as site owner to develop a framework for green infrastructure at Lea Castle, proposing measures in the planning file that would safeguard and enrich the existing environment.
Green infrastructure is defined by Natural England as “… a network of multifunctional green spaces, new and existing, both rural and urban, which support natural and ecological processes and are integral to the health and quality of life of sustainable communities. ‘
Once the planning outlines were approved, we stipulated that the developer should be an early adopter of our emerging approach to creating places, including seeking Building with Nature accreditation.
Building with Nature (BwN) is a voluntary program that sets standards for high-quality green infrastructure at every stage of the development process, from planning and design to long-term management and maintenance. BwN standards make it possible to integrate nature-friendly features throughout a development and cover areas such as biodiversity, water management and green infrastructure.
Since the on-site creation of 600 new homes began in October 2020, developer Vistry Partnerships has worked with us, local councils, WGIP and a number of specialist consultants to ensure that Lea Castle Village’s new development meets the needs of the community. BwN standards.
The site is home to a number of protected European species of bats, including horseshoe bats, brown bats and pipistrelles. As some of the redundant buildings to be redeveloped were animal dormitories, replacement dormitories were needed elsewhere on the site. In addition to creating new homes for bats, a redundant on-site substation was converted.
The doors were removed and blocked, and hanging tiles were added to the exterior walls to create crevices for the bats. A specially designed tile access was made to the roof to allow bats to enter the building. As more residents move to the site, information boards will be provided to explain the use and importance of bat roosts.
Vistry and their PET consultants also created a lighting strategy that included dark corridors and specialized bat lighting to keep the movement and foraging corridors between bat roosts and foraging habitats out. surrounding site. Additional plantings and screens are also being introduced to further mitigate development impacts on bats.
As a dormouse’s nest had already been found on the site, all existing groups of trees and woodlands around the site were preserved, in order to maintain the existing commuting routes for the species. Additional landscaped plantings on the sides of the site’s main road will provide an arboreal commuting route across the road and create additional feeding and nesting resources for the mice.
In June 2021, Vistry received a Building with Nature Design Award for its development at Lea Castle, demonstrating that the design of the project went beyond legal requirements to provide a high level of green infrastructure for people and wildlife. .
This is the first of our sites to be recognized, but the work doesn’t stop there. The Léa castle site has 800 additional housing units, as well as employment sites, a new primary school, a sports field, orchards and family gardens.
With support from the Worcestershire Green Infrastructure Partnership, we are examining how we can improve green infrastructure at the site by ensuring forest protection and creating opportunities for wider biodiversity and recreational linkages. Access to the woods will be open with footpaths and a significant area of acid meadow habitat, a priority habitat in Worcestershire, is offered, along with sustainable drainage features.
About 40% of the larger Lea Castle site will be made up of green infrastructure with the aim of generating a net 10% biodiversity gain and obtaining additional Build with Nature accreditation.
To ensure that more of our sites are designed with Build with Nature principles, Leanne Tipple (Senior Technical Manager – Environment) and Lisa Palframan (Senior Technical Manager – Environment) have qualified as evaluators of Building with Nature. This will enable them to provide our project managers with the guidance they need to make room for nature, creating places and communities that support wildlife, water and well-being.