At Kingsbrook, Aylesbury, Barratt and David Wilson Homes North Thames, the RSPB and Aylesbury Vale District Council are working to create a great example of a nature-friendly development that reflects the benchmark we wish to see in future developments.

Yesterday we were delighted to welcome Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma MP to see the site for himself. The minister was particularly interested to see the hedgehog highways and the swift bricks, a new low-cost product which we’ve developed with Barratt, Action for Swifts and Manthorpe Construction Ltd.

Area Reserves Manager Mike Pollard (left) shows the minister a swift brick. There are several installed in the gable end of the house behind.

Work on site started in May 2016. Here’s what’s been achieved so far:

  • 102 houses were completed and occupied in the first village, Oakfield

  • The entrance road was built and landscaped

  • About 1,000 metres of cyclepath and footpath were completed

  • 280 native trees were planted, which will provide food for wildlife and shade and shelter for people

  • 750 square metres of wildflower turf were laid. As well as being good for bees and butterflies, they are easier to manage

  • 40 Hedgehog Highways were built under fences, so wildlife can move about

  • Three wildlife-friendly Show Home gardens were created

  • 40 fruit trees were planted in gardens. The idea is that residents and wildlife will enjoy the blossom and then the harvest

  • 49 trees were planted in the community orchard

  • The first swales and pools (part of the Sustainable Drainage System) were dug and planted. These will hold rainwater and slowly discharge it into surrounding brook

  • Areas of ecological open space surrounding Oakfield Village are being enhanced and prepared for wildlife

  • 75 swift bricks were built into house walls. These are self-contained cavities for these declining summer visitors to nest in. We’ve had tape recorders playing their calls to let them know the nestboxes are there

Already we’ve seen small copper butterflies visiting the Show Gardens, and little egrets and five species of dragonflies on the new swales.

How will we know if Kingsbrook is a success? The new houses are being built where there were once fields and hedges, so some wildlife was there to start with. We did a thorough survey before building started and we’ll be back in 2019 to see how wildlife is adapting and moving in. We will also visit new residents in 2018 to find out how they are enjoying it all.

We need to remember that the first and most important aspect of building nature-friendly high quality housing is making sure it’s located in the right place – for which a strong planning system which protects species and habitats is essential.

Although there was some wildlife here to start with, the Kingsbrook development is designed to protect and enhance it – sadly there are other developments where this isn’t always the case, which is why we’ve been really pleased recently to see the planning application withdrawn at Lodge Hill in Kent – which would have seen 5,000 homes on the UK’s best site for nightingales. Sadly, that battle isn't over yet, so keep watching for emerging news in our #SaveLodgeHill campaign.

Back to Kingsbrook, though - the last time I visited it was still just fields, so it was amazing to see how much has changed in such a short space of time. We hope the minister will have gone away thinking, “How can we make this happen on every housing site?”

We’re still learning how to give a home to nature as we work together with Barratt, and there’s a long way yet to go on this scheme. Yet while we’re proud to extol the nature-friendly features of the development, we’re aware that the truly environmentally-friendly development of the future will have so much more – from zero carbon to sustainable water and resource use. As I’ve previously blogged, that’s a challenge we need to face up to.