UK Ecological Survey Consultants - Ecology Durham - Ecology Northeast

Littleburn Eco-hamlet

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Elmer Ecology is working with The Ethical Partnership (a Newcastle based planning consultancy) to design and build an Eco-hamlet comprising 6 homes which will comply with the BREEAM Code for Sustainable Homes level 6.

Due to the desired location of the development, preparation of planning documents has required a full Ecological Impact Assessment and Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment.

The development will represent a ‘show case’ in sustainable design through:

- minimisation of the energy required for development and operation of the buildings;

- selection of all materials from sustainable or recycled sources;

- minimising water consumption;

- making a positive contribution to the area’s ecology; and,

- locating the development in close proximity to local employment and services.

Building Materials and Waste Minimisation

Building materials wherever possible will be sourced from sustainable / renewable sources, or recycled from previous uses. Selection of materials will also involve a lifecycle carbon analysis such that the overall lifecycle carbon impact of the properties may inform carbon compensation calculations. The extensive hardcore component of the current site, including large areas of poured concrete and rubble from demolished structures will be incorporated into the new development. 

Water conservation

Buildings will be designed to minimise consumption of water which will be achieved by capture and use of rain water, and through use of recycled gray water. Waste water will be treated where possible using reed bed filtration with a goal of achieving complete self sufficiency with regards water use. This will enable householders to avoid water utility payments.

Heating / Energy Conservation

Energy required for heating of the houses will be minimised primarily through exceptional standards of household insulation. Any residual requirement for household heating will be met through methods such as ground source / air source heating, or roof mounted solar panels.

Electricity Generation

The development will aim to remove reliance on utilities for the provision of electricity by use of embedded / sustainable electricity generation technologies. If planning constraints prevent such energy independence, then the development will seek to minimise dependency on electricity provided by utilities. The development will explore implementation of technologies including free standing wind turbines, roof mounted photovoltaic and CHP. Again, the goal will be to remove dependency on energy utilities, reducing associated carbon emissions and making considerable savings on utility bills.

Transport, Access and Connectivity to Services

The site is located within walking distance of local shops, services and employment. A 300m walk will take home owners to Langley Moor high street and Lidl Supermarket. Bus stops are also positioned along Langley Moor High Street providing regular access to schools, chemists, a GP and various other services. Local busses also provide a direct and regular connection to Durham City Centre.

Landscape, Ecology and the Natural Environment

The development site is currently characterised by large areas of concrete hard standing. The land descending from the development has numerous concrete footpaths and posts with soil contaminated by buried plastic. Nutrient enrichment of the soil has resulted in growth of a dominant and rank tall herb community with low biodiversity.

The currently degraded lower grounds of the site will be restored to a species rich wildflower meadow, and species selection will be in accordance with the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats. Due to the existing dominance of ruderal species, this will be achieved through measures to reduce soil nutrient status, followed by reseeding with a wildflower and meadow grass mixture.

Grounds within the residential area of the development will be part enclosed, but will include a communal central area where residents may meet and socialise, where children can play, where vegetables may be grown and poultry kept.

Design Principles for the Buildings

The development will create an overall vista that compliments the valley side setting – reclaiming this location from dereliction and proving that residential development can contribute to the character of the landscape and its ecology.

Buildings will be designed such that shape, texture and colours compliment the valley side setting, creating the impression of a natural transition from the rural valley vista through to the industrial uses at the valley top – so managing and mitigating the impact of this transition in a manner that is currently absent from the location due to the presence of derelict structures and degraded land.

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