Building Communities

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

Our approach

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.

Making the most of natural capital in planning new developments

The Sustainable Land Trust uses up-to-date research and  practice to benefit nature and society both in urban and rural landscapes. The NL:NC programme works with developers, managing agents, and most importantly communities to assess, quantify and value natural capital assets. Assets include existing and new habitats, allotments, parks and open spaces.

New developments and regeneration schemes often result in the creation of new communities who stand to benefit the most from carefully designed sustainable landscapes and natural areas.  Such new landscapes should have at their heart the aim of providing community cohesion, health and wellbeing benefits, opportunities for employment, education, and leisure. Provision of biodiverse landscapes help to root people in their area, and can support adoption of a sense of place and cultural belonging. Such values can be made explicit to new communities, where natural assets are enjoyed on a day to day basis.

Consideration of the services and functions of ecosystems, and their value as natural assets spans all stages of the planning and development process.  The market for payment for ecosystem services (PES) is growing with payments for carbon capture, watershed services, biodiversity conservation and pollination being the most common. Others include willingness to pay linked with house prices; tourism, recreation and education schemes; residents service charges; health and wellbeing programmes, and the material value of natural resources (e.g. as products or produce for sale or processing).


The Trust provides a wide range of consultancy services to improve planning and development projects.

The team has extensive experience at all levels from providing protected species surveys on small scale schemes, to helping to assess a wide range of sustainability issues and providing third party accreditation for major developments.

See our consultancy page for more details.

BREEAM Communities

The Trust provides BRE accredited BREEAM Communities assessments for masterplans and regeneration projects. It benefits local authorities, developers, masterplanners, and the local people who live and work in its communities.

The BREEAM Communities approach includes:

  • Governance: promotes community involvement in decisions affecting design, construction, operation and long term stewardship of a site.
  • Social and economic wellbeing: includes inclusive design, cohesion, adequate housing and access to employment.
  • Resources and energy: this addresses sustainable use of natural resources and the reduction of carbon emissions.
  • Land use and ecology: this encourages sustainable land use and ecological enhancement.
  • Transport and movement: this ensures the design and provision of transport and movement infrastructure is embedded into the design to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.
  • Innovation: The framework encourages the adoption of innovative solutions which are likely to result in environmental, social and/or economic benefits.
A staged approach

The BREEAM Communities approach recognises that large scale regeneration and development proposals evolve and take a long time to reach fruition, thus is staged to follow existing masterplan design phases.

Step 1 is applied at the early stages of planning and design and identifies the main sustainability issues and creates a framework for assessment. Consultation and involvement of existing and new communities is crucial at this stage. Working with local people, stakeholders, agencies and others, the aim is to identify issues and opportunities and prioritise these so they can be incorporated in future steps, and set the principles for the development.

Step 2 determines the layout of the design and includes detailed requirements considering how people will be move around and through the site and where buildings and amenities will be located.

Step 3 creates more detailed design including the design and specification of landscaping, sustainable urban drainage solutions, and other sustainability measures.

Benefits of BREEAM Communities

BREEAM Communities is supportive in

  • helping to create sustainable communities that are good for the environment, its people and are also economically successful
  • embedding sustainable principles and goals within the masterplan from the outset helping to create places where people want to live and work, enhancing employee satisfaction
  • providing a framework to improve efficiencies during the masterplanning process, helping to save time and money throughout the project
  • facilitating the planning process with tools and targets to assist with the sustainable decision making
  • giving independent third party certification of the sustainability of a development’s masterplan
  • contributing to project participants and tenants corporate, social responsibility, business reporting and sustainable business leadership (BRE, 2019)
If you are interested in incorporating BREEAM Communities into your regeneration scheme or masterplan, call us to discuss how we can help.

Garden City/ Village Principles

The approaches taken by the Trust in supporting communities and maximising ecosystem services provides multiple benefits and results in well thought out projects and plans.  The Town & Country Planning Association promote the principles first imagined by Sir Ebenezer Howard in 1898.

Garden cities (and villages) were intended to be self contained communities that included the best aspects of urban and rural living.  The Garden City Movement has influenced development planning and most large scale regeneration schemes in the UK are now using the principles to create communities that are sustainable and resilient.

The Sustainable Land Trust has experience in working with the Garden City/ Village concept, using appropriate methods at each stage of the planning and development cycle:

Case Studies

Newton on Trent Garden Village, Lincolnshire

This 42 acre site masterplan is for a 350 dwelling mixed use rural development which will provide an extension to the existing village. The village is in decline through the loss of community facilities; suffers an aging population; and a lack of natural and open spaces. The Sustainable Land Trust were commissioned to project manage the masterplan and ensure that the proposal achieved the highest levels of sustainability, community benefit and biodiversity gain. Holding the only Midlands BREEAM Communities assessor license the Trust aims to achieve ‘excellent’ from the Building Research Establishment.

The Trust carried out baseline biodiversity surveys and ecosystem service assessments at the earliest stage to inform the final proposal. Community consultations at the outset helped to identify issues and opportunities that spaces and landscapes could address. The Trust’s BREEAM Communities Assessor worked closely with landscape architects, flood experts, remediation specialists, archaeologists, and the wider development team, to shape the final masterplan and create a sustainable development that met social and environmental needs and aspirations.

Key ecosystem services incorporated at the design stage
  • Flood alleviation features on and offsite that benefits the whole village, not just the development, thus ensuring its long term resilience against impacts of climate change
  • 25% of site to be new habitat and biodiverse open spaces with priorities for pollination, food production, air quality provision, shading, carbon sequestration, and using plants of local provenance to protect against pest and disease
  • Creation of new green infrastructure allows community access to surrounding landscape thus increasing opportunities for physical activity
  • New community growing spaces and orchards distributed throughout the development and extended into the village, with no restrictions on ability to sell produce
  • Sustainable transport measures ensure that local air quality is protected
  • Landscape and ecosystem management plan ensures local employment and payments are ring-fenced for community benefits
  • Sustainable land management practices and inclusion of PES reduces costs against traditional housing estate management practices.
  • Creation of new community open spaces enables lost traditions to be reinstated
  • Improvements in health and wellbeing through creation of volunteer group and planned activities