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Building in Biodiversity (Brighton & Hove)

Building in Biodiversity (Brighton & Hove)

Why Brighton's Bees are in a Buzz over Exciting Planning Changes

You only need to take a look around your local neighbourhood to see new build housing developments springing up. Almost overnight, a little more of our natural habitat has disappeared forever.

While people undoubtedly need homes, do they need to be at the expense of our environment?

Can we afford to force vital wildlife such as pollinators, birds, hedgehogs and bats out of our ever-growing urban areas?

Or is there a solution that enables us to share our space and nurture each other?

Sparrow making a home in a swiftblock


Cllr Robert Nemeth is very aware of the challenge.

In addition to his elected role, he is a property developer and landlord - but as a professional bee-keeper, he also understands the issues caused by building on the natural environment and the devastating consequences if this continues unchecked.

So what is the problem?

Declining biodiversity affects us all

  • Swift populations have decreased by over 50% in the last 20 years largely due to loss of habitat.
  • Populations of bees and other pollinators are in decline with some species now sadly extinct from loss of habitat, pesticides and climate change.
  • This will have serious implications for biodiversity and food production as well as beautiful outdoor spaces.
  • The honeybee is the most well-known and protected bee as they live in managed hives.
  • But solitary bees (such as the mason bee, mining bee, leaf-cutter bee) make up a staggering 250 of the 270 species of bee in the UK and are the star pollinators of our crops, veg, fruit trees and both wild and garden flowers.
  • The materials used in new build housing means their habitat is under threat.

“We have created a perfect storm of problems. It is up to us to do something about it.”

Cllr Nemeth became increasingly frustrated with the number of planning applications to the council slipping through without any benefits to nature and began to think about what compulsory conditions could be introduced to bring some balance between the needs of people and nature

“I came up with a list of about 10 simple things that could be put in place to give nature a chance. My view was that if a certain amount of houses are needed to be built then how can we achieve this without nature being the absolute loser?”

Top of the list was swift boxes and bee bricks

“Solutions needed to be cheap, easy and popular – and these fit the bill perfectly”

Green&Blue Bee Bricks are the same size as a normal brick, but have  holes that provide the perfect nesting environment for solitary bees. They are simply built into a wall and left to await the arrival of a new resident.

Bee Brick bee house in a brick wall integrated with leafcutter solitary bees in flight

Solitary bees are fascinating to watch and a wonderful way to introduce kids to bees, they have no queen or honey to protect, meaning they are non-aggressive and won’t sting, but bring huge pollination benefits.

What happened next? Success - planning regulations are changed

Cllr Nemeth followed up on these ideas and was impressed by the products made in Cornwall by Green&Blue.

“The bee bricks tick all the boxes – they are cheap to source, easy to incorporate into a build and have had a great response on social media.”

And the great news is that his work and determination has led to planning regulations being updated to make bee bricks and swift houses compulsory for new builds and certain types of extensions in Brighton and Hove. Compulsory regulations make everything easier for the planning officers so a winning outcome all round.

“I am delighted that Brighton and Hove are the first council to implement these planning changes and this is just the start.”

Cllr Nemeth is keen that these changes are part of a bigger picture and appreciates that results will not be seen immediately. Hedgehog highways, bird feeders, bat boxes and of course pollinator-friendly planting will all contribute to improving a system that as it stands is just not functioning to protect the environment.

“This is just the start, people understandably have reservations, but the dream is that people will embrace the ideas. A few bee bricks won’t be enough, we need to roll out 100s and for people to fall in love with them and plant accordingly. I have seen enough bee bricks working for solitary bees to know that this is the way forward.”

And the future?

Of course there will be questions and discussion, but Cllr Nemeth’s actions have got people talking. Bee bricks are the just the start of raising awareness about the issues caused by development, and finding workable solutions.

“Over 100 councillors from all around the UK have emailed me asking how they can do this in their area, with 1000s tagged on social media by constituents asking their representative to make the same changes.” 

Cllr Nemeth is committed to following up on the impact these changes will make and will collect data and carry out informal inspections to feedback to Green&Blue.

Cllr robert Nemeth and Faye from Green&Blue outside cornish workshop

His visit to their workshop in Cornwall confirmed his high expectations of a forward-thinking, principled and responsible company and he and his children were delighted to see Beeposts as homes to not just a few but 100s of bees right outside the workshop.

“At the moment we are planting inexpensive and achievable seeds for our future with every reason to hope this will catch on and become phenomenal.

I have now visited the Green&Blue workshop in Cornwall, and it was a privilege to meet the friendly, committed team and see first-hand their vision and passion while they were working – I loved it!”

And there is more to come. Cllr Nemeth has seen the magic and has become part of the inspiring Green&Blue journey. He summed his visit up by commenting

“Everything on their shelves is beautiful and does something good in the world”

Take a look for yourself and join our journey.

View the Green&Blue range here.


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