With millions of people having faced lockdown and experiencing a lack of access to green space over the last year, we have joined a national consortium of leading housing associations to tackle the issue and stop the decline in connection to nature and time spent outdoors.
Backyard Nature inspires communities to tackle the nature crisis and make a real difference to the planet, by providing the tools needed to help plants and animals thrive on your patch of nature – whether you live in the heart of a city or the middle of the countryside.
We are working with the Backyard Nature Campaign across a number of our housing schemes in the South West throughout the summer, including those housing young people, older people and those with complex lives.
We will work to help improve the quality, and increase the use, of green spaces for local people by providing training, resources and funding to our staff, local community partners and residents to connect with nature.
Jen Endean, Young Person Service Development Manager,, said: “We know the huge difference outdoor space makes to people’s lives and housing associations have a key role to play in connecting local communities with the green spaces around them and educating and changing behaviours.
“We want to highlight the importance of time spent outdoors which has a hugely positive impact on all aspects of our lives, from health and emotional wellbeing to educational attainment and how we care for the environment.
“We need to challenge the sector to contribute positively to ensuring that our residents have a say in how we develop our spaces as well as access to outdoor space improving their health and wellbeing.”
Through our consortium group, residents and young people will be given the opportunity to influence key business staff and shape policies, procedures and key housing programmes. Themes include: engaging care leavers in nature for wellbeing; co-designing green spaces in new developments; green sector employment for young people; engaging young social housing residents in green volunteering; and encouraging intergenerational connections through engagement with nature.”
We have already invested more than £33m in rural homes during the last financial year, having built 219 homes in rural areas.
In the next 12 months, we plan to develop 56 rural homes in Cornwall, 116 in Devon, 180 in Somerset, eight in the West of England and an additional 10 in other areas.
We have changed way new homes are built and existing homes are maintained across the South West as the issue of sustainability in house building grows.
Central to our energy efficiency drive, we are targeting that all of our existing homes reach an Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) rating of band C and above by 2028 – two years ahead of the proposed government target of 2030.
Managing almost 38,000 homes across the region, we are one of the first housing associations in the country to have launched an environmental blueprint with measurable targets.
The increased EPC rating will reduce carbon emissions and support the government’s ambition for the nation to become carbon neutral by 2050. This runs alongside our core ambition to provide homes, support our customers and address fuel poverty.
We have also committed to delivering our new homes to EPC band high B/low A using an enhanced fabric first approach to ensure our homes outperform current building regulations, reducing energy demand and carbon emissions.
We are also taking steps to futureproof our new homes by installing the infrastructure that can accommodate heat pumps at a later date, to provide an alternative to a fossil-fuel based heating system.
We plan to gradually move away from gas and oil heating systems to electric-based systems in order to benefit from the National Grid’s drive to become greener in how it generates electricity.
We originally targeted a 20% reduction in paper consumption over the next 12 months and a 10% reduction of business mileage year on year for the next three years.
But with current working patterns having changed following the outbreak of Covid-19, we are now considering setting more challenging targets.
Melvyn Garrett, Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We place sustainability at the heart of our organisation and we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our activities to create a clean and sustainable future for our customers, employees and our families.
“With local councils declaring climate emergencies across the South West and, as the largest housing provider in this region, we wanted to renew our environmental commitments in order to embed sustainability across the organisation and to assist our local authority partners to achieve the goals outlined in their Climate Action Plans.
“For us, this is about improving the energy efficiency of our homes, either through building new sustainable properties or by refurbishing existing ones.
“We have set ourselves measurable targets, increasing the energy efficiency of our homes and promoting sustainable behaviour change for both customers and colleagues which all contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
“We aim to promote sustainable solutions working with our joint venture partners to help them to meet their needs but also to contribute to creating a low-carbon economy and support thriving, vibrant communities.
“These steps demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment for today and the future.”