The Power of Norwood High Street
Type: Digital month-long consultation
Client: London Festival of Architecture
Status: June 2020
Pilot project: A Co-working space
Collaboration: Station to Station, the West Norwood & Tulse Hill Business Improvement District
Publication: Norwood High Street for All (coming soon…)
To understand the types of programmes and functions that we should encourage, tell us how you use Norwood High Street? What type of route do you take to cross the street, and where are the places you like to linger?
We didn’t receive a lot of information about human journeys but we did receive a lot of information about bat journeys. And so the Bat’s Highway was born.
Joanna Ferguson is an urban bat ecologist who has been involved with bat conservation in a voluntary and professional capacity for over 15 years. Jo’s more recent professional experience is as an ecological consultant specialising in providing surveys, mitigation and enhancement advice covering a range of development projects, including residential, commercial and transport. When she is not doing pro bono work for her local area’s green infrastructure strategy she is the Built Environment Manager for the Bat Conservation Trust. Jo is also a Full Member of CIEEM, a Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor and a member London Bat Group.
This is a collaboration between Joanna Ferguson and A Small Studio.
Where their populations are doing well it is an indicator that the local environment is functioning properly. We used to just attach the benefits of this to the well-being of plants and animals in that area however we now realise just how closely aligned our own physical and mental well-being is to a healthy eco-system.
Bats are fantastic for pest suppression, in the US the agricultural community benefit into the billions of dollars from their hunting of crops pests. In the UK we have less of an understanding in terms of monetary value however even our smallest species (at around 4g!) can eat thousands of tiny insects a night!
You can reliably record around 6 bat species in central London, 12 have been recorded within the M25 so there are plenty of opportunities to engage people through activities such as bat walks in green spaces.
The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) produced a leaflet with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Wildlife Trusts to create stepping stones of valuable habitat for bats, birds and insects
West Norwood Bat Species
Landscape and Urban Design for Bats and Biodiversity
Planting species with a proven benefit to nature that will survive in harsh urban conditions – native plant species aren’t always resilient enough and therefore you can see green walls either that have failed because they haven’t been thought through properly (using native species without consideration for local climate) or that are hardy but have no benefit to nature.
Creating stepping stones of habitat – is it easy for developers or property owners to feel like their footprint won’t make much difference if greened as it’s quite small, however, urban species are usually very mobile (birds, bats and winged insects) so thinking about greening in terms of corridor creation and linking existing patches of habitat helps nature benefit through dispersal, but also makes people feel part of something bigger.
Having great landscaping is key for foraging for bats but including roosting habitat nearby increases the chances that bats can take advantage of this opportunity – this can be external or internal bat boxes or specially designed areas for them within buildings
Keeping habitat dark where possible – bats risk predation from species such as peregrine falcons in lit conditions, our slower flying species won’t risk entering lit areas to feed where insects are attracted to light sources, fast-flying species will sometimes risk it but at a fitness and competition cost – also light pollution is an issue for people so there are multiple benefits here!
Controlling for the Impact of Artificial Lighting
Use warm white LEDs
Avoiding the use of lighting with a blue-rich / UV content – it is harmful for insects as it attracts them from a wide area, many die at the light source, other are predated upon by opportunistic bats but these bats are putting themselves at risk of predation, slower species can’t even utilise this food source due to this risk
What light is needed and where?
Unnecessarily bright or uncontrolled lighting can spill onto habitats valuable for bats which may make them unsuitable for bats. Mapping habitat routes locally will help to understand where needs to be kept dark and also then controls for sky glow that impacts dark skies and nuisance lighting disturbing the public
Consider when light is needed. Does it need to be on all the time or at the same brightness? Dimmed and triggered lighting can be really useful to ensure that excess light is kept to a minimum where it is required for safety only when people are present.
Linking your Green Infrastructure (GI) opportunities map with a lighting map for the area and seeing where lighting should be avoided/controlled, maybe even reducing where it is a present to open up dark habitat corridors and where there are areas that are less good for bats (less habitat present) where well thought out lighting could be installed for people if necessary?