Dr David Rumble, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s head of conservation strategy on the effects of development on wildlife
All the major political parties agree on one thing: the nation needs more houses, and our two counties are seen as a good place to build many of them. At Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust we regularly raise concerns about potential impacts of development on our precious wildlife, but Hampshire still faces the prospect of tens of thousands of new homes locally.
The next best thing is to attempt to introduce measures to reduce their impact on wildlife. But what does that involve?
In some cases a new development can provide new green spaces – attractive accessible places for new residents to walk their dogs, run and cycle.
This is important as it means more sensitive wildlife havens get to keep the peace and quiet they need.
But all too often it’s not possible to provide enough of the right kind of green spaces with new homes, and instead, a strategic approach is needed to offset the negative impacts on wildlife.
We at the trust helped to set up a study a few years ago to understand the current and future impacts of development on the protected birdlife of the Solent. Coastal areas like Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour provide vital resting and feeding areas for migratory birds, some of whom fly thousands of miles from Siberia to visit our shores.
However, they’re under threat from development and disturbance.
The study found that some activities are relatively benign but other noisier or more intrusive activities like walking dogs, using kayaks and kite-surfing, cause much more disturbance.
The study also carefully evaluated different ways of mitigating these impacts, coming up with a list that included wardens along the coast, new green spaces for recreation, awareness-raising for dog walkers and, crucially, safe wildlife havens for birds.
Developers must now make contributions to a fund to pay for this mitigation: currently a modest £174 per new dwelling within certain areas.
The Solent is a wildlife gem right on our doorstep, home to a spectacular array of bird life.
We at the trust will continue to oppose new developments that are likely to harm wildlife, but we know we also need to ensure that if they’re given the go-ahead, there are also the right facilities for people and protections for wildlife too.
For more information the trust’s work to protect local wildlife, visit hiwwt.org.uk.