DEVELOPERS building hundreds of homes in Taunton must ensure the town is fit for people and nature, a boss at a leading environmental charity has warned.

Jolyon Chesworth, nature and wellbeing manager at Somerset Wildlife Trust was speaking after the launch of The Wildlife Trusts' report 'Homes for people and wildlife - how to build housing in a nature-friendly way'.

Mr Chesworth, who also leads on the trust's Taunton garden town programme, said the natural environment must be put at the heart of planning to help achieve the Government's commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.

He said: "The design and build of our own county’s urban areas has a massive influence on the quality of life for those who live and work there.

"High quality design can increase the desirability of an area, boost the local economy through jobs and tourism, increase health and wellbeing, foster community pride and benefit the natural environment.

"Poor quality design can, and does, have the opposite effect, creating unnecessary problems that can be costly to fix.

"We are really pleased to see the guidelines launched and hope that councils, planners and developers continue to talk to us.

"Up to 13,000 new homes are planned for Taunton over the next ten years. This scale of house building can bring massive challenges to infrastructure, existing and new communities and of course our urban wildlife.

"However, if done right and the guidelines are followed, large developments can positively contribute to the nature on our doorstep and our quality of life.

"With Taunton now being a garden town, now is the time to start building in a nature and people friendly way."

Rachel Hackett, living landscapes development manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: "A huge challenge lies ahead – thousands of new houses are to be built (nationwide) yet we also desperately need to restore the natural world.

"We’re calling on the government and local authorities to build beautiful, nature-friendly communities in the right places to reverse the loss of natural habitats that has occurred over the last century.

"Nature has its own innate value. It also makes us happy and we depend on the things that it gives us. Our new guidelines show that it’s possible for both ambitions to co-exist.

"With good design and planning, the costs of achieving this are a small proportion of the overall cost of a housing development - but represent a big investment for the future."

She is calling for the current focus on numbers of new homes to be replaced by a visionary approach to where and how we build.

She added: "We should prioritise places for new housing that are already well served by infrastructure, avoid destroying wildlife sites, and locate new houses in places where it can help to restore the landscape and aid natural recovery. It’s possible to create nature-friendly housing by planting wildlife-rich community green spaces, walkways, gardens, verges, roofs, wetlands and other natural features.

"These gains for wildlife improve people’s health and quality of life too."