Research & Reveal
I have lived in the village of Oakley, Hants, for about 16 years now and in that time, there have been at least seven or eight different housing developments, ranging from 4 dwellings to 85 dwellings.
The latest development of 85 homes, has been built on the field right behind our house and whilst we always knew this was a possibility when we bought the house, it has still taken a little while to get use to.
The biggest change for us since the development has been the loss of all the wildlife. We would regularly see deer, a barn owl, bats, shrews and foxes. We were very lucky to have the field as long as we did and have our children see all the various wildlife, but we miss it very much.
Living in the village, we do have access to the countryside within walking distance and still occasionally see some wildlife, but it is a concern that with more developments being planned, the wildlife will disappear completely.
Other concerns that the locals have about all the recent developments are, can the infrastructure of the village (drains, roads etc) cope with the extra capacity, are there enough amenities for everyone and with the expanding population, will Oakley soon lose its village status?
The development and property services company ‘Wates’, who bought the field behind us and planned the development before selling it onto ‘Forman Homes’ to do all the construction, had to make some contributions to the local community as part of the agreement to build all the new homes.
I spoke to local resident ‘Kirsty’ who is currently involved in a campaign to improve Oakley’s main play park ‘Kennet Way’. “Wates gave an amount of money towards the ‘Kennet Way’ campaign as part of their ethos is to ‘give back’ to the local community. If they don’t create a play area within their new development, then they make a contribution to the biggest play park/green space within that area.”
Looking at the ‘Wates’ website, they have a ‘Sustainability’ section which talks about the wellbeing of people and delivering sustainable building projects. They also have a nice video about protecting our planet, but they don’t say much about what they are doing to help or protect the wildlife that they affect when building their developments.
When ‘Wates’ made a donation towards the ‘Kennet Way Park’ revamp, I asked Kirsty if they requested the money to be used for anything specific? “No, the money was given to the borough council, which will be given to us once all plans and designs have been approved and work has begun. We had no specific conversations with the developers on how the contribution was to be used.”
Kirsty went on to say “The wildlife was a very important consideration when we started our campaign to improve the local park. We want to ringfence an area in the park dedicated to attracting wildlife and get local residents and particularly the young population of Oakley involved in the whole process. We thought about having planting days and building bug hotels.”
The last holiday we went on, before Covid, was to Normandy, France. On one of our days out we went to a village and came across an area where local children and residents had designed individual gardens specifically with ‘wildlife’ in mind. You could walk around the area as a whole and see all the different designs the children had come up with to attract all the wildlife – it was beautiful.
The wildlife is slowly declining from our homes and local areas and it is very sad to think children growing up won’t see the birds, bees and butterflies come and visit their gardens or the green spaces near them and I believe this needs to change. Whether it’s trying to make change with the housing developers or education our children the importance of wildlife, this is the area I’d like to raise awareness on for this week’s workshop challenge.
A Wilder Future
The UK wildlife is under threat. Due to urbanisation, farming, pollution and climate change, wildflower meadows have virtually become extinct and there has been a 41% decline of all UK species 1970’s.
As we continue to use up the earth’s natural resources, pollute our rivers and streams and build on our green spaces, younger generations are growing up without being able to explore the natural world and discover how exciting and important it is.
In the village of Oakley there have be between 6 – 7 housing developments over the last 16 years, with the latest development consisting of 85 dwellings being built on a field where deer, barn owls, bats, shrews and frogs all once inhabited. Where do they go?
Whilst there is a need for more housing, do the architects, constructions companies, estate agents, borough councils or even the local parish have a responsibility to ensure that there are provisions for the wildlife when people buy and move into their new homes?
Is there a way that the local communities can come together to help restore a ‘little bit of wild’ into everyone’s homes? Can communities highlight the importance of nature by running events in specific green spaces dedicated to restoring the wildlife and getting families involved?
It is important that we don’t lose any more of our wildlife and that our children have a ‘wilder’ future living alongside and amongst the flowers, bees, birds, butterflies and insects.
What can be done?