It’s not entirely uncommon for residents of planned communities and developments to be responsible for the occasional incidental whether it’s an annual maintenance fee, a security surcharge for the luxury of having a “gate-keeper,” or a perks-related premium for something like an on-site fitness center or swimming pool. But an annual fee that goes towards the creation and upkeep of an adjacent nature reserve?
That’s what’s happening at Portbury Wharf, a 2,550 new home community located near the coastal British town of Portishead (yep, that
Portishead). Homeowners at Portbury Wharf must pay an annual levy of £65 (a little over $100) with a majority of the fee going towards the Avon Wildlife Trust
(AWT). In return, residents get a stake in the 117-acre nature sanctuary, The Portbury Nature Reserve
, being developed on land that was once a dumping ground for power station waste.
Portbury Wharf is believed to be first housing development in the U.K. where residents pay an annual fee to live adjacent to a wild plot of land
that's teeming with critters like water voles (the most threatened species in the U.K., apparently) otters, hawks, dragonflies and herons.
The creation of the reserve is intended to offset the impact of housing
construction on the adjacent brownfield site. The developer, Persimmon Homes
, came up with the residents' levy initiative after North Somerset council gave planning approval on condition that a nature reserve be created and its management handed over to a reputable nature organisation. Persimmon Homes paid the set-up costs for the reserve and management was handed to AWT in June.
It doesn’t see that the residents of Portbury Wharf are burdened by this unique arrangement ... or at least the residents that The Guardian chatted with. Helen Mason gladly pays the annual levy and also volunteers to help out at the site. She says
, “It's amazing having it right on your doorstep. I lived in central Bristol before, so it's quite a change. You can walk over here and see the birds, you've got hedgerows, ponds and the estuary as well. It's something most people don't have and it's something I want to learn about."
about the reserve-building project at Portbury Wharf over at The Guardian and then come back and let me know what you think about it in the comments section. Would you be interested in living in a planned community like this? Should the residents of a planned housing development be held financially accountable, even if it involves just a small annual fee, for the creation of a nature reserve?
Portbury Wharf resident Claire Short thinks accountability should be shared. “"It's not solely our responsibility, nor is it a government responsibility, nor is it a charity responsibility,” she tells The Guardian
. "I think we should all take care of the environment in which we're living, which is becoming more and more precious. If we have a monetary interest in it, it might make us a bit more careful."