Greening Up, a new report by Create Streets, makes a compelling case for bringing nature back to our towns and cities.
The study, which is sponsored by Berkeley Group, includes the following essay by Berkeley Chief Executive Rob Perrins on the benefits of biodiversity net gain and the challenges facing large scale urban regeneration projects.
This knowledge is infusing the planning system, with one of the biggest breakthroughs coming later this year when developers will be required to value, protect and measurably increase the biodiversity on their sites.
At Berkeley we have been delivering biodiversity net gain voluntarily since 2016, having so far put it into practice on 54 different projects. This has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, with each biodiverse masterplan gradually maturing into a vividly beautiful and hugely popular place. And we’ve learnt that wilder and more varied natural landscapes are more resilient to climate change and more engaging than traditionally designed green open space, becoming a real source of joy, pride and community activism of the most uplifting kind.
But delivering these very positive outcomes is not easy. Large-scale placemaking is a complex process and it takes commitment to embed a deeper appreciation of nature and its many important roles within our town and cities.
The increasingly rigid and prescriptive planning system is another big challenge, with layer upon layer of (well-meaning) policies being brought into force, many of which are in direct conflict. Regretfully, these rules can be unbendingly applied in isolation of each another, instead of being thoughtfully considered as part of the overall planning balance. This gradual hardening of the system now greatly inhibits design and creativity, making it harder to unlock complex urban sites and create places of lasting benefit and beauty.
As a business specialising in large-scale urban regeneration, we are fascinated by the complex interplay between nature recovery, climate resilience, housing delivery, economic renewal and community strength. Placemaking is not a zero-sum game and truly successful neighbourhoods must be individually designed alongside local people, ensuring they strike the best possible balance and respond to local priorities and concerns.
At Berkeley, we will continue to make the case for a truly design-led planning system as we look to regenerate 32 of the country’s most challenging brownfield sites and stitch them back into their surrounding communities.
This fantastic report from Create Streets will inform our approach and crystallises the many benefits of greening up urban landscapes. They also pinpoint key barriers to delivery, as-well-as valuable opportunities to drive progress on many different levels.
This is essential reading for those concerned with the future health, beauty and vitality of urban Britain and we hope it will bring greater focus and clearer thinking to this vital area of public policy and debate.”
Rob Perrins, Chief Executive, Berkeley Group