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10 January 2022

RSPB and idverde Creating Nature Positive Communities

Through a new partnership, the first of its’ kind for NI, we hope to connect homes with the nature on their doorstep.

This year, idverde and the RSPB Northern Ireland are working with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in a first-of-its’-kind project for Northern Ireland. The Housing Executive manages 85,000 dwellings, covering two million square metres of green space and a variety of priority species and habitats. RSPB NI and idverde will shape the way the Housing Executive manages this estate, working together to increase biodiversity.

Saving Species

The estate encompasses housing and community spaces, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and peatlands. The Housing Executive is looking to transform 400 acres of grassland across the estate into wildflower meadows, supporting species such as bee orchids and the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Greater biodiversity of flora and invertebrates will help some of our key species: we hope to see the installation of Swift boxes, providing safe nesting for this red-listed species. Managing woodlands in these urban and suburban habitats alongside landowners could also support Tree Sparrows, a species that declined 93% from 1970–2008. With 11% of species on the island of Ireland threatened with extinction, and 25% of bird species red-listed, a multi-organisational approach is a big step in the right direction.

Leaving a Legacy

Leading the project for RSPB NI is Conal O’Neill, Biodiversity Advisor. Conal will be developing a strategy for the future of the project, outlining a roadmap for the Housing Executive to carry forward. The unique approach of embedding RSPB NI staff in the project enables us to have direct input on the outcomes of the partnership, aligning our values on management for environmental and ecological benefits with our partners. Being involved from the start means we can shape a legacy for nature across communities in Northern Ireland.

The Olympic Park in London was designed with this in mind. The once brownfield site has been transformed into a mosaic of habitats, including wet woodlands, wildflower meadows and riverbanks. We’re excited for this partnership in continuing the success of this urban oasis, welcoming black redstarts, toadflax brocade moths and even streaked bombardier beetles, once thought extinct in the UK.

Grey to Green

Considering the size of the estate, Conal says, “There is so much potential here for change, if you think about the number of people we can reach who will discover the RSPB though idverde, exploring nature in their backyards and sparking an interest for future generations.” Community engagement is at the heart of the strategy, giving people the tools to design their environments for nature. Conal is eager to “green the grey in our towns and cities”. These nature-based solutions can reach further than providing a stable habitat for wildlife. There are plans to transform an area prone to flooding and antisocial behaviour into a diverse wetland for dragonflies, damselflies and amphibians. By planting willow and alder, the aim is to deter people from inappropriately using vehicles on the land, creating a safer community. In Belfast, a disused alleyway is the potential site of a community garden. We will work closely with the Housing Executive committee network to establish links in these communities. Conal is eager for the RSPB to work with the Education Authority, getting involved in youth groups and sports clubs, and demonstrating the wealth of nature available to younger generations in their local areas, and how they can be part of the solution to preserve it”.

This year will set a benchmark for the future of this unique project, showing the potential impact of this kind of partnership and the benefits for people and wildlife.

To find out more information about RSPB click here.


Photography from RSPB NI