The last time I was in Malmesbury there was a Fieldfare looking over the building site; this time there was a Chiffchaff. Whether the Chiffchaff’s song was celebrating the activity on the site of what will be a new Waitrose store is difficult to know, but there was certainly a lot going on with around 40 workpeople (almost all men) driving large trucks, digging, carrying and hammering.
As winter has moved into spring the outlines of the new Waitrose store are springing up but I was visiting, with others, to check on progress with the wildlife aspects of the site. To be fair, it’s a bit difficult to tell by looking at what is on the ground at the moment – it’s a building site still! But we looked at where the grassland and scrub will go, and heard that plans are still firmly in place. We saw where there would be wild flower plantings on the gabion wall (and heard that a local school had been contacted to play a part in this) and we looked at designs for a Swift tower and stood where it is intended to be.
I love learning things and was interested to hear about a weakness in the planning system. Have you heard of BREEAM – the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method? It appears to be the industry standard and planning authorities use it to judge aspects of a development’s environmental credentials. So the planners may look more kindly on an application that states it will get a BREEAM ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ certificate. The snag in the system, I am told, is that many developments never follow through and get the certificate – and the planners don’t ever (hardly ever) check. How daft is that?
Now, if you do check the buildings that have final BREEAM certificates in the retail sector, because I have, you will find that Waitrose look pretty good because there are only three (out of 403) retail buildings, issued with final BREEAM certificates, that get the top grading of ‘outstanding’ and all three are Waitrose stores (in Stratford (London), Bracknell and Cowes). If anyone, for example Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Asda, has a different take on this then please let me know, but Waitrose look pretty good to me.
As far as the wildlife enhancements on this Malmesbury site are concerned then we are still at the ‘great plans and good intentions’ stage of things. It seems to me that the builders (Simons) and Waitrose are heading in the right direction – but it is delivery that is important (as with BREEAM) and so I’ll be keeping you in touch with what actually happens here over the next few months.