19/06/2024

Future-Proofing Our Landscapes

Discover how we put nature at the very heart of the places we create to enhance biodiversity and tackle the challenges of climate change.

The roof garden at London’s Oval Village  (above) is an idyllic setting to relax in the sunshine, surrounded by an oasis of flowers, shrubs and trees, with views of the iconic London skyline. But this garden is more than just a beautiful place to sit, it’s one of the many ways that we are helping to address the climate crisis and improve Britain’s biodiversity. 

“All over Britain, nature is in crisis,” says Jessica Lewis, our Head of Sustainable Places. “There are less songbirds, less butterflies, polluted waterways are coming under ever-growing pressures, there are increased floods from the changing climate; the list could go on.”
 
The Government recently introduced measures so that every new housing development must give nature a helping hand and actively improve biodiversity. “This became law in 2024,” explains Jessica, “but, in fact, it’s something Berkeley has been doing since 2016. And we often go far, far further than the legal requirement.” Oval Village is a case in point; while the Government requirement is for a 10% lift in biodiversity, when complete, the Oval Village development will produce a 179% rise.

Planting for a Changing Climate

The roof garden, courtyard garden and living roofs across Oval Village all add to the biodiversity of the scheme. As with all the planting that Berkeley now carries out on its projects, the roof garden contains a diverse array of species that can cope with the changing climate and actively attract pollinators, which help plant life to thrive. But this isn’t its only benefit.

As you look out across neighbouring buildings, you notice what an untapped resource these flat roofs are. Most of them merely reflect back the heat of the sun, and catch rainwater which is then sent straight into drains. But the roof gardens and plants gently swaying in the breeze on the Oval Village roof not only absorb rainwater where it falls, slowing the water reaching the drainage system, they also release some water back into the atmosphere through their leaves, which helps to keep surrounding temperatures lower. It’s a win for the environment, and a win for residents looking for somewhere to cool down on a hot day.

Collecting Rainwater

At ground level too, our projects have a variety of schemes in place to reduce the amount of rainwater running into rivers and drains, and to help alleviate the risk of flooding. “The water features that you see running through developments are a relaxing resource for residents and members of the public, but they are often good for the environment too,” says Jessica. 

A shallow pond in the grounds of the Sunningdale Park development in Berkshire, for example, is in fact a swale – a water management feature designed to collect rainwater and slow down its journey to the nearby streams and rivers, in dry weather it becomes a grassy dip. 

At the more urban Clarendon site, in Wood Green, the whole development has been designed around the course of the underground Moselle Brook, with a shallow rill that collects rainwater – and provides somewhere fun for children to play. This water is then used for irrigation of the site’s gardens, relieving pressure on the water system in times of drought.

A CGI of how the shallow rill will look at Clarendon

A CGI of how the shallow rill will look at Clarendon.

Wilder, More Natural Landscapes

“All our developments are landscape-led,” explains Jessica. “We start by looking at what’s there and work with ecologists to develop a landscape plan, joining up local nature areas wherever possible.” Since 2016, we have created 55 acres of living roofs, 235 acres of woodland and 150 acres of grassland, all creating or restoring rich, varied habitats where wildlife can thrive. Some of our partners in this work include the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the London Wildlife Trust. The latter have been closely involved with the development of The Green Quarter in west London. 

In The Green Quarter, 50% of this development is designed as open green space, and a large part of that is reclaimed wetlands, with biodiversity-rich natural planting, reed-beds, and a permanent water body that provides a haven for plants and wildlife. These more natural areas are a regular sight on our developments now, not only are they more resilient to the changing climate, they also lock in more carbon as plants grow more abundantly and grass isn’t constantly cut. 

The Green Quarter

The Green Quarter

Tree Planting

The Green Quarter will also account for 2,500 new trees being planted, with all the carbon storing benefits they bring. “Many of these will be grown at a tree nursery on site,” says Jessica.  “It will be used as an attractive feature for residents as well as a learning opportunity for local schools. It also means we can select a tree at just the right point of maturity before planting it out.” 

The tree nursery at Parkside Yards in The Green Quarter is one of the first at any UK development and is growing species native to the British Isles including hornbeam, black alder, London plane, crab apple, wild cherry, lime and silver birch.

Selecting the right tree for the right spot is essential in creating gardens and natural habitats. “Different sites have different conditions – such as soil and water levels – which have to be taken into account. Plus, you might want a tree to provide shade for garden users, or to stay a certain size,” explains Jessica. 

At White City Living in west London, 400 trees were hand-selected in this way, and carefully placed around eight acres of landscaped gardens including a five-acre public park. Every tree helps in the fight against the effects of climate change: storing carbon, cooling the city, helping to prevent floods and cleaning up polluted air.
White City Living

White City Living

From the rooftop garden of Oval Village, it’s easy to see how London has earned its status as Europe’s greenest city; trees and parks dot the streets below. Many of the capital’s 3,000 parks date back several centuries, and the new ones created by Berkeley Group are making sure that this green tradition continues.