Building homes and habitats for nature

Our Penshaw Gardens affordable housing scheme which is building much needed homes for people over 55, is also creating living spaces to boost local wildlife and biodiversity.

Working with regeneration specialists, Vistry North East, we are installing:

  • four bat boxes - including one specifically designed for bats during the breeding season
  • three swift nesting boxes
  • two sparrow terraces
  • two bumble bee boxes
  • five bee bricks, which provide a host of varying sized nesting spaces for solitary bees

All will be strategically located to guarantee optimal orientation and height and to meet the needs of individual fauna, whilst also minimising any potential disturbance to future residents.

Thomas Rigby, Delivery and Development Manager at Gentoo Group, said: “As well as being committed to addressing the affordable homes shortage in Sunderland, Gentoo is focused on ensuring the environmental impact of our new builds is minimised and our contribution to the natural environment is maximised.

“It’s brilliant that new homes can be built with design features to provide new spaces to support animals and local wildlife and we are delighted to be working with Vistry North East, to bring much needed affordable housing for the over 55s forward, whilst promoting and preserving biodiversity.”

The scheme will feature 72 self-contained properties that will be modern and spacious. The building will be eco-friendly - featuring a fabric first approach with improved thermal construction, and low energy technologies. All properties will be made available for affordable rent via Gentoo’s allocations system.

Andrew Mayfield, Senior Design Manager, Vistry North East said: “The loss of habitat for our native wildlife has been a huge driver in the continued decline of many species across the UK. Swifts were added to conservation experts’ red list of the UK’s most endangered birds in 2021 and eight species of bee - a third of the remaining species we have - are currently listed on conservation priority lists, due to their large-scale declines in distribution. These are just two worrying examples.

“However, by thinking imaginatively, working with experienced and knowledgeable partners and implementing design features that create habitat and promote biodiversity, new development can make a positive impact - providing new spaces for animals to live and thrive.”

Part of the Vistry Group, Vistry North East enlisted local ecological consultants, Ecosurv, to offer pre-construction advice, expertise and ongoing guidance throughout the build. Ecosurv - operating under its Habibat brand - has developed a range of habitat features tailored for bats, birds and bees, which can be seamlessly built into brickwork. Each product has been developed in conjunction with relevant advisory organisations, such as The Bat Conservation Trust and RSPB.

Impressed by this habitat feature range, Wienerberger bricks, a key partner in Vistry's supply chain, has allocated dedicated factory space in their UK facility to manufacture the units for use on new developments.

Read more about our Penshaw Gardens development.

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