An opportunity to shine


Tom Butterworth, Technical Director, Biodiversity, WSP and member of the 2018 BIG Biodiversity Challenge and Awards judging panel, explains the importance of the Challenge and gives praise to development projects and their site personnel.


It is too easy to be critical. As a parent I know this all too well. ‘Sit up’, ‘don’t talk with your mouth full’, ‘jump down from the seats’, ‘stop strangling your sister’ and on and on. Although some criticism is important (strangling is not a good life choice!), parents and teachers will know the power of praising kids: when children are praised they shine.

Sometimes, as an ecologist working with development, it can feel as though we are in the same critical position. We spend our time telling our colleagues who design or build new developments ‘please don’t chop that tree down’, ‘if you damage that rare habitat we will have to put it all back the way we found it’, ‘don’t pick up that newt!’ and so on. As ecologists, it can feel as though we are always identifying what we cannot do within a development.

This is why the BIG Biodiversity Challenge and Awards run by CIRIA are so important. They provide an opportunity to praise development projects and everyone working on them. They allow these projects to shine.

I was delighted to be asked to take part judging the awards this year. This was an opportunity to discover some of the most ecologically forward-thinking developments around. I came away feeling inspired! These three things caught my attention more than anything else: 

Firstly, projects where partnerships were developed between the developer, consultant and conservation charities really stood out. The expertise that each organisation brought to the table shone through.

Secondly, the exciting ways in which projects engaged the staff involved in the development and/or the local community, from local schools to the people who are moving into the new houses being built. These projects clearly had community impacts far beyond the boundary of the development.

And lastly, I was impressed with the number of projects that were delivering Biodiversity Net Gain. With the updated NPPF now published, the requirements for net gain for biodiversity are stronger than ever but these projects were some of the trail blazers, demonstrating that delivering net gain is possible on developments of all scales. Without them I don’t think that Biodiversity Net Gain would have been strengthened in the updated NPPF no matter how we ecologists argued for it. 

I am looking forward to the award ceremony in September and I would like to thank CIRIA for providing an opportunity to shower praise on these outstanding projects. However, I also realised that I want to spend more time recognising the great work being done across the country. This can start within my daily job, by making sure that I tell the engineers, contractors and developers I work with when our projects are starting to shine.