Homes England has a clear objective at its Lea Village Castle site, and that is to make sure that the high-quality scheme responds to the unique opportunities presented by the existing green infrastructure.
The site, on the former Lea Castle Hospital near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, is surrounded by woodland which is home to a wide and diverse range of plant and animal species.
To create a community which works in harmony with this unique setting, Homes England has worked with partners at Worcester Green Infrastructure Partnership (WGIP) and borough and county ecologists in Homes England’s role as site owner to develop a framework for green infrastructure at Lea Castle, proposing measures in the outline planning application which would not only safeguard, but enrich, the existing environment.
Green infrastructure is defined by Natural England as ‘…a network of multi-functional green spaces, both new and existing, both rural and urban, which supports natural and ecological processes and is integral to the health and quality of life of sustainable communities.’
With outline planning approved, Homes England stipulated the developer must be an early adopter of its emerging approach to place-making, including seeking Building with Nature accreditation.
Building with Nature (BwN) is a voluntary scheme that sets out standards for high-quality green infrastructure at each stage of the development process, from planning and design to long-term management and maintenance. The BwN standards enable nature-friendly features to be integrated throughout a development and cover areas including biodiversity, water management and green infrastructure.
Since starting on-site to create 600 new homes in October 2020, developer Vistry Partnerships has worked with Homes England, local councils, the WGIP and a number of specialist consultants to ensure the new Lea Castle Village development meets BwN standards.
Vistry and consultants TEP also created a lighting strategy including dark corridors and specialist bat lighting to maintain the commuting and foraging corridors between bat roosts and surrounding off-site foraging habitats. Additional planting and screening are also being introduced to further mitigate the impacts of the development on the bats.
In June 2021 Vistry was awarded a Building with Nature Design Award for its development at Lea Castle, demonstrating that the scheme’s design had gone beyond statutory requirements to deliver a high standard of green infrastructure for both people and wildlife.
This is the first Homes England site which has been granted this award, but the work doesn’t stop there. The Lea Castle site has an allocation for an extra 800 homes, along with employment land, a new primary school, a sports pitch, orchards and allotments. About 40% of the wider Lea Castle site will consist of green infrastructure, with the aim of delivering a 10% biodiversity net gain and securing a further Build with Nature accreditation.
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