Joining the panel of judges again this year for the BIG Biodiversity Challenge was a pleasure. The challenge, to ‘do one thing’ for biodiversity, was met in so many imaginative ways that it felt as if we would struggle to narrow down the diverse list of entries to shortlists and eventual winners. Each year the entries get stronger and more ambitious and every entry for 2016 had something special to recommend it. It was a real thrill to see all the different ideas, and particularly the enthusiasm, time and effort put in by the people involved. This of course meant robust discussions amongst the judges, particularly when considering how projects had gone beyond normal business practice to provide tangible biodiversity benefit.
This year both familiar and new themes were represented, such as using temporary spaces for planting and adding value to unused or neglected corners of land, including surprising biodiversity features as part of a landscape design, or within an art installation. There were also strong submissions from projects that forged innovative links with off-site green spaces and inspiring examples of how we can work and live side-by-side with wildlife. What really impressed me in many of the applications was how project teams had researched their ideas to make them relevant to their location and collaborated with outside groups to achieve greater benefits; some even training to become beekeepers!
Enthusiasm and passion simply jumped off the pages of many of the entries as they described how their projects took shape, from the first flowering of newly planted areas to seeing increased numbers of birds and insect visitors. Notable entries had a clear understanding of what delivers real biodiversity benefits, and demonstrated how such benefits can be sustained, including taking opportunities to replicate good practice at other locations. This year we also saw an increased number of projects demonstrating practical and workable ways to manage and maintain these benefits over the longer term, often a neglected aspect after the initial start-up phase has passed.
The BIG Biodiversity Challenge is the Number 1 industry initiative in the UK, providing an opportunity to share experience and encourage others to consider biodiversity in every area of design, development, construction and operation. Year on year all of the entries and ideas are contributing to a wider appreciation of the benefits of this approach, so long may it continue!