Reconciling housing needs and the natural environment

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It is difficult to balance the island’s needs for additional housing and a growing population, while preserving natural habitats and protected species groups.

It will become more and more complex to deal with, but a recent development of 200 accommodation units for Andium Homes, at Pépinières de Samarès, has shown how we can achieve this hand in hand.

The land was acquired as a large redundant greenhouse site with associated irrigation ponds and rugged grassland habitat, with the proposal to develop much-needed housing.

With the site unused for a number of years, suitable habitat for a variety of groups of protected species had established itself, including rough grasslands, young forests and open water (disused irrigation ponds). GR Langlois Ltd commissioned the first ecological studies of the site with Nurture Ecology, which showed that there were high populations of amphibians, reptiles and birds at the site, which needed to be mitigated in accordance with legislation and local politics, while providing much needed local housing.

During construction, Nurture Ecology worked closely with GR Langlois developers, Axis Mason Architects and builders Houzé Construction, to produce a species protection plan which means the protected wildlife on the site was not damaged. in the short term (during site clearance and construction), and was supported in the long term in terms of habitat creation and connectivity.

Short-term mitigation measures and measures to reduce the impact of site clean-up and construction work included:

• Schedule of work to prevent bird nesting and amphibian and reptile reproduction.

• Establishment of an ecological buffer zone around the periphery of the site, which has been improved by additional seeding of rough meadows and wildflowers, planting of hedges, piles of logs and control of invasive plant species.

• These buffer zones have been fenced with ‘exclusion fences’ to prevent any animals transferred to these areas from re-entering the main work site, while allowing connectivity and movement of animals to the wider countryside through already established wildlife corridors.

• Two new wildlife ponds were created in the ecological buffer zone before the drainage of the irrigation ponds to ensure the maintenance of the amphibian breeding habitat.

• The clearing works were staggered over a period of 18 months to reduce the impact on the fauna, in accordance with the program desired by the clients.

• Large areas of the site have been stripped under ecological monitoring due to the high number of toads and slowworms at the main site. All animals were transferred to the on-site receiving site and buffer zones under license from the Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Jersey). Nurture Ecology transferred 116 slowworms, 227 adult toads, approximately 600 juvenile toads, approximately 1,500 tadpoles, 34 newts, and 19 small mammals to the ecological buffer zone surrounding the site during the site strip. All transfer works were undertaken under special licenses from the Ministry of the Environment.

Long-term improvements to the site for protected wildlife to ensure their long-term survival and use of this site included:

• A two to five meter wide ecological buffer zone surrounding the periphery of the entire site created and maintained over the long term, including the two wildlife ponds, rugged meadows and native hedges. Amphibian breeding was maintained in both ponds with numerous “toads” found around these areas. Large numbers of slow worms are still found in the ecological buffer zone.

• Ditches and areas of standing water were maintained and improved around the periphery of the site as additional wetland habitat for wetland birds and amphibians.

• A green “wildlife corridor” of favorable native trees and shrubs has been planted in the center of the main site to facilitate connectivity of this area for birds and bats. Many species of birds and bats have been observed near the ponds, feeding or drinking directly from them, or feeding on the insects that congregate in these areas. Connective habitat is essential to maintain links with these important feeding areas.

• Nesting boxes for bats and birds were “built in” to the exterior walls of the new homes to provide nesting and roosting habitats for these species. House sparrows moved into the specially designed boxes even before the houses were completed, and as such, the large colony of this species found in this area before the works has been maintained.

• The site will be “permeable” to the free movement of wildlife at the heart of the site by providing access through / under all site walls / fences for species such as hedgehogs and toads.

Although work on the last houses was only recently completed, ecological mitigation measures are already successful with populations of all the protected fauna previously found on the site still present.

Paul Wagstaffe, Director of Nurture Ecology, commented: “While there is always an ecological and environmental impact if developing an area like this, these impacts were addressed and mitigated early in the design process. and planning of the Samarès nurseries site.

“This meant that we could reduce short-term impacts as much as possible and, with the ecological knowledge collected at an early stage, design habitats in the program, which meant that the long-term ecological functionality of the site for protected species. would be provided for the long term.

“I think this project shows how the balance between the need for additional housing and maintaining habitat for wildlife can be achieved and I think it sets a real precedent for how projects like this should be undertaken in the future. It also offers residents an abundance of wildlife on their doorstep to enjoy and connect with the natural environment, which I feel is more important than ever nowadays.


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