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Building Nature In To Oxfordshire

Local leaders debate how 'Building Nature In' to Oxfordshire’s development can support people, nature and climate.
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On 18th May, Earth Trust brought together the expertise of a diverse panel of industry leaders to explore what ‘Building Nature In’ to the places where people live, work and play could look like and discuss how key challenges can be overcome.  Speakers included, Mark Beard, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and chairman of Beard Construction, Matthew Battle of UK Property Forums, Jane Houghton of Natural England, and Earth Trust CEO Jayne Manley with expert audience members including Bev Hindle, Director of the Ox Cam Arc and Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of OxLEP.


The South East and Oxfordshire is one of the most rapidly developing parts of the UK, with Oxfordshire planning for 100,000 new homes and 85,000 new jobs in the period 2011-31.   The climate and biodiversity emergencies are at the top of the built environment agenda, particularly in terms of carbon, changing climate and ecological loss. Oxfordshire’s councils have all declared climate emergencies and pledged to work on reducing carbon emissions.  Increasing the part that people can play in both these emergencies is being recognised, alongside the benefits that being close to nature can have on people’s mental health and physical wellbeing.

While emerging planning and environmental policy and regulations consider these, there is no joined up approach to lever and support people, nature and climate through the planning, design and construction process.


The Oxfordshire Growth Plan 2050 sets out a unified strategy for future homes and infrastructure across the 6 county councils, while also seeking to tackle climate change and a move to zero carbon transport. But many feel that for Oxfordshire to realise it’s economic vision, green infrastructure and nature based solutions need to be embedded at the heart of the plan, rather than bolted on.

Local environmental  influencing charity, Earth Trust believes that putting people, wildlife and climate change at the heart of development requires a more creative and collaborative approach to how natural capital and the built environment integrate.


Jayne Manley, CEO of Earth Trust explains: “Building Nature In is about truly integrating nature and ecosystems with the built environment, enabling deep connection between people and nature in the places where they live, work and play.

Earth Trust is positioned at the sharp edge of thinking through the challenges of creating and managing spaces that enable both people and nature to thrive in balance. Our award winning Earth Lab building is a living demonstration of ways in which industry and developers can think and act differently as we tackle the challenges we face and strive to build sustainably – whether climate and carbon, nature based solutions  and biodiversity or health and access as well as engagement with nature. But, we urgently need to scale up in order to embed ecosystem thinking and action and to strengthen the connection between people and nature.

To achieve this and make real change happen, we need multiple skill sets and expertise across sectors that may not be used to working together – with people venturing beyond their usual natural habitats and ecosystems!  We are grateful to Natural England, DevComms, Nightingales Wealth Management and UK Property Forums for their support in helping us to hold this vital conversation.”


This event comes at an important time when the whole country is gearing up – and levelling up – to tackle the global crises impacting our planet and life as we know it.

Jayne Manley continues “We all have an important role to play and are required to work and act in a way we have not done so before. So whilst at the Earth Trust we are now well used to wearing a hard hat along with steel toe capped boots, these won’t be needed for this event! Instead we will be focused on hard thinking required to build nature in to all our futures.”

About Building Nature In
Building Nature In to people’s lives and communities creates a virtuous circle of mutual benefits for environmental and societal wellbeing – this include improved physical health and mental wellbeing of communities, natural solutions to nature recovery and the biodiversity crisis and reduction and locking up of carbon, reduced energy use, emissions and water consumption.

 

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