Workshop showcases toolkit for sustainable development

Left to right: Cllr Bridget Smith (Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council), Martin Baker (Conservation Manager at Wildlife Trust), Christine de Ferrars Green (Partner at Mills & Reeve) and Rebecca Britton (Chair of the Developers Panel for Natural Cambridgeshire and part of Urban&Civic team)

Developers, planners and environmental consultants recently attended a workshop to understand how Natural Cambridgeshire’s Developing with Nature Toolkit can help them bring forward new homes and communities in a way that enhances the natural environment and increases the area’s biodiversity.

Greater Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing areas within England, with plans for significant additional development and major infrastructure to provide tens of thousands of new homes and significant new employment opportunities over the coming decades. The Toolkit will help to ensure that Cambridgeshire grows well and delivers a great quality of life for people and nature to coexist in harmony.

The Developing with Nature Toolkit has been produced to help developers and infrastructure providers to demonstrate their commitment to achieving a net biodiversity gain and comprises a simple list of “10 Things to do for Nature”.

Speaking at the event, Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “With all of the growth planned for this area, it is vitally important we set the bar high and ensure developers work hard with local partners to deliver the green space needed for people and nature, as well as well-connected, energy efficient homes that provide affordable living for more people.

“This Toolkit highlights best practice and sets out a framework that pushes developers to deliver meaningful environmental benefits. We are also looking at how we can embed this within the planning process for South Cambridgeshire and across work being taken forward across the Oxford Cambridge Arc.”

New developments that adhere to sound sustainability principles can ensure the protection and enhancement of our natural environment by creating high-quality multifunctional habitats that protect and support a wide range of species. The provision of on-site and wider landscape-scale high-quality natural environments also enhances a new place and attracts additional investments.

Christine de Ferrars Green, Partner at Mills & Reeve, who hosted the workshop, said:

“We were pleased to support this event and help promote the Developing with Nature Toolkit to developers and partners within the property sector. It is clear that quality of life – for people and nature – is increasingly important within the planning process and also for customers, and this event enabled healthy debate about how the development community can use the Toolkit to take this forward.”

The Toolkit is primarily intended for major developments requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment and can be used from the very outset of planning new developments, early consultation and right through to detailed design. It provides a scoring matrix, guidance notes with links to background information, and includes a summary map of Greater Cambridgeshire’s strategic green infrastructure and ecological priorities.

Rebecca Britton, Chair of the Developers Panel for Natural Cambridgeshire, and part of the Urban&Civic team taking forward 3 strategic developments in Cambridgeshire said:

“The scale of developments we are taking forward at Alconbury Weald and Waterbeach mean you simply have to have close working relationships with key environmental partners, as well as extensive support from ecologists and landscape teams working at the heart of the design and delivery process. The Developers Panel and the Toolkit are about building support, examples and frameworks which can share best practice approaches at all scales of development. Planned well, new developments can play a transformative role in bringing forward and managing new habitats and green spaces, supporting species and connecting people to nature.”

Martin Baker, Conservation Manager at The Wildlife Trust, said:

“The Toolkit is about providing a framework that enables discussions about the best approaches from initial site selection, through consultation to delivery and long-term maintenance.

The scoring matrix should provide some measure for developers to test their own approaches, but some of the core benefits of this approach come from meaningful debate and ongoing relationships with environmental groups – from statutory partners in the DEFRA family to local wildlife groups and charities.

“We live in the least wooded county in the least wooded country in Europe, with only 4.8% of the county counted as wildlife-rich habitats. By working together we can ensure the growth planned for Cambridgeshire enables the best outcomes for nature and the local community, as well as a real sense of ownership and support for new developments.”

For more information see the Developing with Nature Toolkit.