Paul Cassidy of Meadfleet explores how green space in housebuilding projects is crucial for the sake of residents’ health and their environment, and the role open space management specialists play here.
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that green spaces, fresh air and exercise are vital to our health and wellbeing. Being outside next to nature has brought a real sense of calm and perspective to our lives as well as a renewed appreciation of the great outdoors.
It is well recognised that access to nearby green space has a positive impact on mental health, as noted in 2019 report “A Spatial Analysis of Proximate Greenspace and Mental wellbeing in London.” Not only that, but green space also improves air quality and mitigates flooding, helping to combat the effects of climate change.
For so long now, local authorities’ ability to adopt open space on new build developments has been restricted, with management companies stepping up to take responsibility for these areas. These companies must be experts in open space and all its requirements. They must work with the developer to ensure customer satisfaction, quality service and sustainable living environments.
OPEN SPACE MANAGEMENT
An open space management specialist’s aim is simply to maintain, protect and enhance open spaces, taking into account the many different functions these areas must fulfil.
Firms are accredited via BS EN ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management and BS EN ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management, with voluntary memberships of The Property Ombudsman Scheme desirable.
It is the duty of all responsible businesses to play their part in reducing carbon emissions. As such, along with all the above, we signed up to the One Planet Pledge, with a commitment to reduce and offset our emissions in order to achieve carbon neutral status in 2021.
Open space management specialists must be committed to protecting trees under their management, as they are crucial to reducing carbon emissions and important wildlife habitats. Regular Tree Hazard Assessment Surveys should be undertaken to ensure trees are safe and healthy. A mature oak tree can store over 7 tonnes of carbon and support 2300 species including birds, invertebrates, mammals and fungi, so it’s important these assets are preserved.
Also important is working to facilitate the rollout of Biodiversity Net Gain, a new approach to ensure that all development projects leave the environment in a better state than before.
Managing surface water and contributing to sustainable developments, SuDS are considered environmentally beneficial. Climate change and the link to extreme weather conditions such as heavier precipitation demonstrates the importance of appropriate maintenance of such features. Wetland habitats can provide a host of biodiversity benefits, and through sensitive management ensures our SuDS function effectively and support wildlife.
Working practices must be regularly reviewed to ensure that specialists operate in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, for example using ‘mulching mowers’ to maintain grasslands. These reduce the amount of green waste requiring removal from sites, ensuring that the carbon and nutrients return to the soil. Storing logs and cuttings as ‘habitat piles’ can providing valuable shelter for wildlife while again reducing green waste and associated transportation.
Supporting native species is also a key part of an open space management specialist’s role, thereby enriching customers’ environments. From our annual residents survey we know creating wildlife friendly areas is becoming more of a priority.
In partnership with leading insect charity Buglife, our Bee Friendly campaign aims to help support pollinating insects vital to our food chain. 75 per cent of crop species, 35 per cent of global crop production, and up to 88 per cent of flowering plant species are dependent on insect pollinators to some extent.
The initiative encompasses a range of targets, including donating and planting 1000s of metres of pollen rich hedgerow and wildflower and over 50,000 nectar producing bulbs. We’re also giving away bee hotels for customers to install in gardens along with pollinator friendly seeds. Most species of bee found in the UK are solitary, and will benefit from the provision of bee hotels. Hedgerows and bulbs provide a valuable source of nectar early in the year, and wildflower meadows provide a variety of flowers which bees will feed on throughout the summer months.
Experienced firms will hold regular training sessions to ensure their teams are well equipped to optimise open spaces for wildlife to thrive, as well as work with residents, local community groups and schools to run educational events and initiatives such as bat walks and tree planting days.
Open space management is not simply maintaining formal striped lawns, it is about managing a development’s ecosystem and features sensitively and professionally, providing, safe, welcoming open space which can be enjoyed by residents and wildlife.
Paul Cassidy is ecology and conservation manager at Meadfleet