Hayfield commits to Homes for Nature initiative

June 28, 2024

Hayfield is one of the first few housebuilders to sign up to a major new initiative to support wildlife on their new developments.

The Homes for Nature commitment will see a bird-nesting brick or box installed for every new home built, as well as hedgehog highways created as standard on every new development taken through planning from September 2024, for participating companies.

With 20 homebuilders, who build more than 90,000 homes a year, already signed up to the voluntary commitment, the move represents a major step towards providing the minimum of 300,000 nesting bricks and boxes thought to be required to support swift populations and many more bird species across the country.

In addition to integrated nest bricks, boxes and hedgehog highways, homebuilders are encouraged to incorporate additional features, such as bat roosts, insect bricks and hibernacula. Away from the home, nature-led sustainable urban drainage systems and pollinator-friendly landscaping help to make even more homes for nature on new developments.

Homes for Nature was developed by the industry-led On Site Nature Measures Working Group, convened by the Future Homes Hub, an independent organisation established to enable the new homes sector to meet the climate and environmental challenges.

The commitment is in addition to the recently implemented Biodiversity Net Gain regulations, which require all new developments to achieve 10% more wildlife.

Ed Lockhart, Chief Executive of the Future Homes Hub, said: “Homes for Nature is a fantastic opportunity to create many more homes for wildlife, bring people closer to nature and at the same time provide a helping hand to some much-loved and critically endangered species.

“A commitment to installing integral nest bricks or boxes and creating hedgehog highways as standard is a simple but effective way to support our precious wildlife, including the iconic swift and hedgehog.”

The scheme will come into effect in September 2024 for all new planning applications. The initiative will run until at least 2030, with annual reporting to track progress and to identify further suitable measures that could be introduced to support other wildlife.

Becky Ingham, Chief Executive of Action for Swifts, said: “For centuries swifts have shared our buildings and homes by nesting in the nooks and crannnies of old style buildings. In recent years the loss of nesting sites has had a major detrimental effect on this Red-Listed species.

“It’s heartening to now see the commitment from so many major developers towards installing integral bricks, which will last the lifetime of the building and provide our Swifts and other cavity nesting birds with long-term habitat.”

Many homebuilders already have commitments to deliver measures for nature on new developments, however this initiative aims to support a consistent, industry-wide approach. The support is reflected by the range of large and SME homebuilders who have made the commitment, with all homebuilders encouraged to join the initiative.

The On Site Nature Measures Working Group is now working with organisations such as the RSPB, Action for Swifts, Hedgehog Street, and the NHBC to develop the technical and customer guidance for installation of the nature measures across development sites.

Nigel Symes, Head of Business Conservation Strategy at the RSPB, said: “We are delighted to have been asked to help to develop this initiative, which will make a huge difference for wildlife in the built environment.

“We know that these measures work, and are truly encouraged that the home building sector is coming together and committing to delivering them at scale. Meanwhile, providing for nature will, we are sure, create better places for people."

Supporting nature is a key part of the homebuilding sector’s overall sustainability roadmap, ‘Future Homes, One Plan’, which sets out the industry’s pathway to building a generation of high quality, affordable and sustainable homes and communities.

The commitment currently applies to low rise houses, with further work underway with industry to identify an appropriate nature positive approach for new apartments and high-rise buildings.