CREATURE FEATURE: Beyond Bees – making pollinators a priority

CREATURE FEATURE

Beyond Bees: Making pollinators a priority

As Defra marks Bees’ Needs Week with a coordinated pollinator awareness drive that will see London’s most famous shopping street renamed “Carnabee Street”, Bradley Murphy Design’s (BMD) Ecology Technical Director Helen Miller explains why the buzz around bees shouldn’t distract us from other pollinators, and assesses what can be done to support these vital creatures.

Think of pollinators and, for many of us, honeybees will immediately spring to mind. Yet, according to the Wildlife Trust, honeybees are likely to be responsible for pollinating between just 5 -15% of the UK’s insect-pollinated crops, leaving 85-95% relying on solitary bees, bumblebees and other wild pollinators.  In fact, there are around 1,500 pollinator species in the UK, from hoverflies and wasps, to beetles and butterflies, all playing a crucial part in the lifecycles of plants around them.

Yet, they are under great threat. Three bumblebee species alone have become extinct in recent decades, with almost one in ten species of wild bee facing extinction. The recent European Red List for Bees reported that, over the past 50 years, half the bee, butterfly and moth species studied in the 2013 State of Nature Report have declined, and a global scientific review published early this year in the Biological Conservation journal reported that over 40% of insects are now endangered, threatened or in decline.

Despite this, they continue to play a crucial role in the food chain, with one third of our food being dependent upon pollination and are estimated to be worth approximately £0.6bn to the UK economy.  Therefore, it is vital that planners, land owners, developers, local authorities and the general public – not to mention ourselves as landscape architects and ecologists – take key steps towards helping pollinators thrive once again, recognising responsibility and driving through change.

Under threat

So, let’s start by looking at the specific threats. Firstly, pollinators must have enough trees and flowers to forage and thrive – and, quite simply, changes to how we use our land, such as intensive farming methods and use of pesticides, have caused huge losses to natural habitats. Wildlife charity Plantlife has reported that, since the Second World War, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows.

Paul Hetherington from invertebrate charity Buglife expanded on the reasons behind this in an inspiring talk given to the BMD team earlier this week. Green spaces are increasingly being removed and replaced with low maintenance options; from homeowners swapping lawns and flowers for tarmac and artificial alternatives, to councils looking to cost save by removing time and labour-intensive grass verges and hedges.  On the flipside, some are maintained too frequently in preference of a more manicured look. Collectively this has resulted in a decline in ‘insect motorways’ which are the essential network pollinators rely on for travelling between habitats.

Climate change is another factor behind the declining population, with changes to the seasons and weather disrupting nesting behaviour, as well as the timing of the flowering of plants pollinators rely on.

But blame doesn’t lie entirely with human behaviour. The second greatest threat to biodiversity comes from invasive species. Conservationists have warned about the arrival of the Asian hornet in the UK, a species capable of killing around 50 bees a day. Similarly, the small hive beetle poses a great threat to honeybee and bumblebee colonies if it were to arrive here.

Beekeepers are ever vigilant about protecting colonies from pests and diseases. The varroa mite is the leading biosecurity threat but fungal diseases can also affect a colony. With honeybee diseases capable of spreading to wild bumblebees, beekeepers have an important role to play in protecting their own hives and, subsequently, wild bees.

Planting the seeds for a bright future

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The Government’s intention to mandate biodiversity net gain obliges developers to introduce more species – providing a clear incentive to create the “diverse and high-quality flower-rich habitats” Defra advocates in its National Pollinator Strategy.

This means organisations like Plantlife are more likely to see success from campaigns for local authorities and private land owners to let neatly-mown grass verges become mini-meadows where wildflowers can flourish once again. Developers are also waking up to the win-win potential of such schemes, which can save them time and money in maintenance costs, at the same time as boosting their environmental credentials and meeting government targets.

Consequently, roadside meadows are popping up across the UK, with one eight-mile ‘river of flowers’ recently becoming a social media sensation. Buglife plans to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of these flower-rich “B-Lines” across the UK – getting farmers, land owners and the local authorities on board to help implement and map a series of insect pathways running across the UK, linking wildlife areas and creating a network of brand new habitats for not only bees and butterflies, but a host of other creatures too.  At BMD, we’re well positioned to help by incorporating pollinator-friendly planting within our landscape design strategies for clients wherever possible.

Working together with Urban&Civic, we’ve already created almost 20 hectares of wildflower meadow and other pollinator-friendly features across their sites at Rugby and Alconbury Weald since work began there, with lots more to come over the lifetime of both projects.  As well as being great for pollinators, this type of planting helps new developments blend into their natural environment and provide attractive splashes of colour in the design.

Wildflower planting at Houlton, Rugby

The solutions don’t stop at grass verges and wildflowers – trees are just as valuable when it comes to helping pollinators thrive. For example, Hawthorns create an ideal habitat for honeybees and lime trees and blackberry bushes will suit honeybees and bumble bees alike.

Of course, this must align with an organic approach, as all good work with planting and trees can be wiped out if they are covered in pesticides or non-organic top soil is used on a development.  Minimising the use of pesticides and specifying homegrown organic soils and plants all helps to address the rise in non-native invasive species, with BMD keen to follow this as best practice and specify organic where possible.

It’s also essential that urban beekeeping isn’t seen to be a quick fix.  By introducing hives of new honeybees, it can put extra pressure on the existing wild pollinator population through increased competition for the same amount of dwindling resources. Therefore, it’s essential to provide additional foraging as well as new homes for them too.  Paul at Buglife recommended Wildlife World and their natural range of bug houses and solitary bee hives which can be supplied for domestic and commercial use.

What’s in it for developers?  

Whilst the use of organic products and implementation of other pollinator-friendly measures inevitably come at additional cost, we encourage developers to see the potential of taking these steps for commercial, as well as environmental reasons.

As the public wakes up to the pollinator plight, customers are increasingly ready to pay a premium for developments seen as environmentally sound – and beautiful to boot. Defra and Government objectives also align with a shifting public mindset, with developers increasingly looking to meet the expectations of a more environmentally aware breed of consumer.  Though common perceptions might previously have considered long grass and wildflowers as messy, aesthetic tastes are moving towards the colourful habitats favoured by bees, butterflies and other flying insects.

It’s also vital to stress that protecting pollinators doesn’t need to come at the expense of well-considered management plans, as savvy developers look to partner with landscape architects to help them better understand how they can adopt a more natural approach, even within more formal settings. Education can also function as a way to add structure to more relaxed landscaped areas – like BMD’s “wayfinding” signage at our Rugby site, pictured below, explaining the motivation behind creating new habitats for pollinators and dispelling common myths that exist.

For BMD, a bright future for pollinators lies in recognising our role and taking responsibility, whether we are masterminding a new project or finding inspiration in our own gardens at home.  Crucially, this doesn’t have to mean making compromises when it comes to aesthetics, or saleability – we pride ourselves on landscapes where the needs of people and pollinators work in harmony. There’s a buzz around saving the bees, and it falls to us to make the most of this, creating environments where all pollinating insects can flourish.

New tertiary signage at Houlton, Rugby promoting the value of pollinators and other species

National award win for major mixed-use landscape development Alconbury Weald

Alconbury Weald

Alconbury Weald, a major landscape-led development in Cambridgeshire, has been awarded the title of Best Mixed-Use Development at the 2019 Planning & Placemaking Awards.

Held at RIBA, London on Tuesday 4 June in association with Planning Magazine, the annual awards recognise excellence in planning-related activities such as placemaking, urban design, economic development, housing and regeneration.

Judges praised the winning entry, led by masterplanners and architects JTP on behalf of Urban&Civic, planning consultancy David Lock Associates, development and infrastructure consultants PBA, now part of Stantec, and landscape architects and ecologists, Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), as a “great example of a master developed approach, producing a great long-term placemaking strategy.”

A largely brownfield site, the former RAF airfield at Alconbury was bought by master developer Urban&Civic in 2009. Over the next 20 years, their vision is to transform the 1425-acre site into Alconbury Weald; a unique and inspiring place for working, living, learning and leisure.

Urban&Civic has been keen to create a sense of arrival and unique character for Alconbury Weald from day one; encompassing high-quality homes, historically respectful layouts, natural landscaping and inspiring civic buildings. Once complete, it will consist of 5000 homes, an employment Enterprise Campus, schools, sustainable transport links, energy infrastructure and community facilities – integrated with more than 700 acres of green space at its heart.

2019 Planning Awards - Alconbury Weald, winner of the best mixed-use development category

Pictured from left to right: Paul Cutler, Urban & Civic, Diana Fjodorova, JTP, Joe Dawson, Urban&Civic, Ryan Murphy, Bradley Murphy Design, Stephanos Spirakis, JTP, Graeme Phillips, JTP.

Tim Leathes, Development Director at Urban&Civic, said:

“This award recognises our vision and commitment to transform Alconbury Weald into a truly unique and outstanding place to live and work.”

“As a master developer, quality placemaking and design is at the very core of our philosophy; we know getting this right is essential when creating major new communities and embedding them within their local environment.

“We’re very pleased that our work so far, delivered with a strong design team and good relationships with key partners, has been recognised with this prestigious planning award.”

 Graeme Phillips, Partner leading the project at JTP, said:

“We are so proud that Alconbury Weald has been recognised as an exemplar mixed-use neighbourhood in the Planning & Placemaking Awards. Our innovative Staged Placemaking strategy and robust Design Code has established a real sense of place within the neighbourhood already, and we look forward to seeing the vision be delivered over the next 20 years.”

BMD has been solely responsible for all the landscape architecture, soil science, arboriculture and ecology at Alconbury Weald since being commissioned back in 2012.  Inspired by the site’s rich aerospace history, the landscape vision centres on creating ‘Green Runways – providing a lift off for nature’.  Mirroring the former military taxiways and runway, they are designed to bring the new community together; connecting the site to surrounding grasslands, water and ancient woodlands.

After outline consent was granted in 2014, BMD has worked collaboratively with Urban&Civic, JTP and the wider technical team to prepare detailed landscape designs for delivery of the initial Key Phases.  This included prioritising the public realm such as a new communal square and woodland ‘play glades’ to give residents, now and in the future, an exciting taste of what is to come.

Ryan Murphy, Director of Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), said:

“Winning this award is testament to the importance and value of collaboration in landscape architecture.  Alconbury Weald is the epitome of a landscape-led masterplan and is arguably one of the best examples of residential placemaking in the UK where landscape and ecology have genuinely been championed by a developer from the outset.”

For more information about Alconbury Weald, click here.

£3.3m public space completes in Aylesbury’s first £18m mixed-use town centre regeneration plan

The first phase of a major £18m mixed-use regeneration scheme in Aylesbury town centre has been completed.

The Exchange, a £3.3m, a 2,515 sqm public realm at the heart of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s (AVDC) multi-million-pound town centre masterplan, officially opened to the public on Friday 8 March. The scheme – which incorporates residential, leisure and commercial space – has been supported by Local Growth funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.

Led by landscape architecture firm Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) and delivered by developer Durkan, the public space will boost connectivity in the town centre, linking key destinations including the Waterside Theatre, Buckinghamshire New University and the area’s canal basin.

Following consultations with Buckinghamshire County Council, Buckinghamshire Disability Service, local businesses, community organisations and representatives from the 2012 Paralympic Flame Festival, the high-spec space is fully accessible, with sloped access routes for pushchairs, wheelchairs and other mobility aids, also providing formal and informal seating – complete with inbuilt power-supplies and versatile street furniture.

Richard Waddell, Senior Associate at BMD and project lead for The Exchange said:

“At The Exchange, we were keen to create a top-quality piece of public realm, with a distinct character and sense of place. Working with key stakeholders, we designed a multifunctional space that ties in with AVDC’s current and future masterplan for improvement and extension of Aylesbury’s town centre, and honours both AVDC’s and BMD’s commitment to community, inclusivity and sustainability.

We are especially proud of the strong community engagement informing our design, with feedback from stakeholders shaping access options across the space to ensure disabled members can remain with their groups when moving through the square, provision of ample cycle parking and a range of seated areas for people to rest and enjoy the space.

We are determined to continue to work with place-makers in local councils and beyond, creating spaces that promote togetherness and shared identity.”

Beyond access, BMD prioritised sustainability, creating a drainage system for the scheme, channelling site run-off into two 9,500-litre harvesting tanks, with the drainage water then used to irrigate the square, including 17 large semi-mature trees.

The Exchange also benefits from energy-efficient infrastructure, providing phone charging points within seating, computer controlled lighting to reduce energy levels beyond closing hours and a range of pop-up power supplies, making the space a prime location for future events.

BMD and AVDC worked closely to develop an art brief for the space, intended specifically to ensure a strong sense of local character. Artists bidding for the commission, were asked to in particular reflect the town’s unique links to Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics. The concept of ‘I am’ was devised by artist Colin Spofforth, expressed through three large sculptures that serve as focal points within the square. Each sculpture seeks to examine personal achievement and human endeavour.

The concept was extended to encompass the personal identity and self-expression of the Aylesbury community, with local residents, children and community groups providing quotes around what ‘I am’ means to them. These messages were then incorporated into the bespoke street furniture, paving and tree grilles designed by leading metalwork artist and blacksmith Chris Brammall.

Teresa Lane, Assistant Director, Commercial Property and Regeneration at AVDC, said:

“AVDC, BMD and Durkan have joined forces with the aim of honouring Aylesbury’s market town heritage with a high-profile, distinctive, and innovative space, and The Exchange is evidence that this collaboration is a success.

The space is a dynamic and attractive environment for use by people of all ages and communities. The Exchange will function as a centre for entertainment and the arts, bolstered by top-quality facilities – from stylish street-furniture to in-built USB charging points. Over the last ten years, AVDC has invested £110m in regenerating the town centre with a focus on creating new leisure facilities and spaces. The Exchange delivers an exciting new vibrant hub which befits the town’s Garden Town status and will serve  both Aylesbury residents and visitors across the region for years to come.”

Shane Rooney, Commercial Director at Durkan, said:

“The Exchange is a superb development at the heart of an exciting regeneration for Aylesbury.  The apartments provided at its centre are vital to this, and we’re delighted to have provided such a key element.

“The apartments are perfect for those looking to get a foothold on the housing ladder, sitting within commuter distance of London and a stone’s throw from the public spaces and modern amenities The Exchange offers.”

BMD specialises in creating spaces that prioritise how people occupy, interact with and share environments.

The Exchange project draws on the firm’s placemaking and public realm expertise – with recent successes including the redevelopment of Bell Court in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the new development of Gabriel Square in St Albans and extensive areas of green infrastructure being implemented as part of strategic developments at Waterbeach, Rugby Sustainable Urban Extension and Alconbury Weald.

For more information about The Exchange, visit https://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/exchange 

Integrate, don’t offset – Biodiversity net gain from the ground up

Philip Hammond announced in last month’s Spring Statement that the forthcoming Environmental Bill will “mandate biodiversity net gain for development in England… ensuring that the delivery of much needed infrastructure and housing is not at the expense of vital biodiversity.”

Following this, a recent CIEEM conference put biodiversity net gain at the top of the agenda. In attendance were BMD biodiversity experts Helen Miller and James Patmore. Here, they comment on the legislative changes and what developers stand to gain moving forward:

Helen Miller, Ecology Technical Director at BMD, commented:

“Biodiversity net gain has always been at the heart of our work!

“The Spring Statement is the welcome culmination of a shifting mind-set at Government level over the past few years. It builds on the work of recently updated National Planning Policy Framework and the 25-year Environmental Plan in recognising and honouring the economic and social benefits of a biodiverse environment. Yet, it doesn’t just stop at environmental benefits, with the CIEEM conference highlighting that biodiversity net gain at planning stages is likely to translate into long-term commercial benefits from natural capital assets down the line. ”

“BMD’s own experience shows that to maximise the potential of this natural capital, collaboration is key: not only must the wider development team be on board from the start, but all disciplines, from ecologists to engineers, master planners to architects, land managers to landscape architects, must work together to preserve and boost environmental assets.”

James Patmore, Director of Ecology at BMD, added:

“Last month’s well-attended CIEEM conference ‘Biodiversity Net Gain From Policy to Practice: A Transformative Tool for Tackling Biodiversity Loss?’ covered a wide range of issues relevant to biodiversity net gain, including using habitat as a measure and the potential shortfalls of the metric approach.”

“Although biodiversity net gain will always face these challenges, its inclusion in the Spring Statement should inspire developers to consider habitat and species requirements in initial design planning – integrating biodiversity into plans from the outset and engaging with ecologists earlier on in the process.”

“New legislation will make effective biodiversity strategy a commercial necessity for businesses, rather than just a nice to have. As a result, Hammond’s statement is an encouraging step towards putting the environment at the centre of property decision-making.”

Meet BMD’s latest graduate landscape architect, Vestina Cizevskaja

Hi Vestina.  Congratulations on graduating and welcome to BMD.  Can you start by telling everyone about yourself including how you got into landscape architecture as a profession and how you came to join the team here at BMD?

I was really interested in art from an early age and by choosing landscape architecture as a profession I knew it would allow me to combine my passion for art with my passion for the environment.  I love the idea of having such a positive, long-lasting impact on people and nature through the landscapes I design.

When I was researching potential practices where I’d like to work, it was really important to find somewhere that shared the same values as me. As well as creating fascinating public spaces for people to enjoy, BMD enhances our fragile ecology and genuinely care about the impact a development has on its environment.  I’m pleased to say I’ve definitely made the right choice!

What do you enjoy most about landscape architecture as a profession?

Landscape architecture is such a broad profession which opens up so many different career paths and opportunities. Personally, I’m drawn to more sustainable and ecological designs – only because I know how much they really benefit the environment.

But landscape architecture isn’t just restricted to that. You can specialise in lots of things such as biophilic design, urban design, resorts, hydrological aspects, plantation and much more.

Vestine joins BMD

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far at BMD?

Radio Station, Rugby is by far the most influential project I’ve worked on at BMD. It’s a great example of how people and nature can mutually benefit at the same time. For example, the orchard and nut trees within the design attract and enhance the wildlife whilst also encouraging people to come together to get a nutritional value from nature. It’s the perfect balance between humans and animals. 

What do you find most challenging about the role? 

I found a few things challenging at first, especially getting to grips with all the different software such as Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and AutoCAD. Although working within such a supportive team as BMD, switching between different software has quickly become one of my biggest strengths. I’ve learned and developed so many new software skills which I’m getting to apply on live projects on a daily basis.

Vestine joins BMD

What would you say to someone considering a career in landscape architecture?

Landscape architecture is definitely a growing career path.  With all the emphasis on climate change in the news now, it’s becoming more and more important in everyday life.

If you genuinely want to help and improve our health, our air quality, current habitat, express your creativity or generally make a positive impact on our surrounding environment, then landscape architecture is definitely the right career path for you.

If you could spend the day in any landscape around the world, where would it be?

There’re so many landscapes that I love.  It’s really hard to pick just one so I’d have to say anywhere with lots of trees. They have an enormous value to our wellbeing, flood management and also provide a habitat for 80% of the world’s animal species!

BMD is proud to support the Landscape Institute’s #chooselandscape campaign aimed at attracting fresh talent into the landscape architecture industry.  You can find out more about the initiative on their dedicated website: https://www.chooselandscape.org/

We’re always looking for talented landscape architects and ecologists to join the BMD team.  So, whether you’re a graduate or senior practitioner, we’d love to hear from you.  To apply, simply send a cover letter & copy of your CV to: info@bradleymurphydesign.co.uk

‘HALO’: A winning model for healthy infrastructure

In March 2018, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) and NHS England launched an international design competition, managed by the Landscape Institute (LI). The brief: to find the best creative and inspiring ideas to help shape the landscape of Ebbsfleet, the first new Garden City of the 21st Century, and the largest of 10 Healthy New Towns being developed in the UK.

Led by Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) in collaboration with JTP and Peter Brett Associates (now part of Stantec), the winning concept ‘HALO’ re-imagines how the green, grey, blue and built infrastructure work together to make new communities inherently healthier, greener and smarter.

With health at the heart of the client’s pioneering vision, early concepts set out to identify and address barriers people face to living a healthier lifestyle.  Following a series of design charettes and workshops, BMD and the wider team concluded that the key to truly unlocking health & wellbeing for Ebbsfleet’s residents requires a multifaceted approach.

‘HALO’ comprises four key design interventions, Hives, Arcs, Links & Organics, that collectively form an interconnected web of healthy infrastructure on residents’ doorsteps: 

  • Hives – providing access to others via social hubs; bringing people and communities together to interact, educate and participate in shared activities.
  • Arcs – reconnecting people to nature via uninterrupted loops that cross roads and railways and connect key parkland destinations.
  • Links – offering a finer grain movement network, ensuring healthy infrastructure is ‘unavoidable’ for Ebbsfleet’s residents.
  • Organics – delivering food and habitat hubs as well as access to foraging routes and engagement with healthy food initiatives such as ‘Edible Ebbsfleet’. 

 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Once shortlisted, the design team were tasked with applying their HALO ideology to the Blue Lake; a natural inherited asset set to become the heart of the new Garden City and one of the site’s seven city parks.

Taking on board the surrounding landscape such as the iconic chalk cliffs, its proximity to Ebbsfleet International railway station and location in relation to the neighbouring residential development, the final winning design response aimed to:

  1. Provide a reason to go there – creating a major leisure destination featuring a floating island adventure park and ‘Be Hive’ beacon built into the chalk cliff face.
  2. Offer a safe way to get there – using the lake as a key stepping stone between the development and its surroundings, connected by a series of uninterrupted arcs.
  3. Create an accessible & legible destination allowing people to walk and cycle to the Blue Lake, whilst the beacon ensures a visual connection to the wider hinterland.
  4. Providing a connection with nature – establishing a chalk habitat mosaic by enhancing cliff faces & lake edges and the creation of floating eco islands.

 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Announced at the LI’s 2018 conference, Valuing Landscape: Connecting People, Place and Nature in September, Dan Cook, CEO of the LI said:

HALO’s winning design stood out for its clarity, and the collaboration of the multidisciplinary team bringing together the best aspects of living in London with those of living in Kent, the Garden of England.”

In the view of the competition’s judges, HALO demonstrated such thorough practicality of thinking that the concept fulfilled exactly what they had hoped for: a design that was radical, but realisable. The panel was also excited by its possibilities, particularly because the design reflected the ‘three magnets’ concept developed by the garden city movement’s founder, Ebenezer Howard. 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Ryan Murphy, Director of BMD said:

“On behalf of the entire project team, we are incredibly proud to have won such a prestigious world-class landscape design competition as Ebbsfleet.  Our winning design HALO is testament to how collaborative masterplanning, with buy-in from all disciplines and stakeholders, can grow sustainable communities.”

The practical application of the HALO interventions to the Blue Lake demonstrates the model’s adaptability, proving its potential to be rolled out across other towns and spaces across the UK – and beyond.

Director of Ebbsfleet’s healthy new towns project Kevin McGeough said:

This exciting and inspiring design exceeded our expectations.  We have been encouraged by the innovation and the wide variety of approaches in this scheme.  The winning design could become one of the country’s most talked about and visited attractions.”

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD