By Allan Fuller
Bee bricks become planning requirement for new buildings in Brighton.
A planning law introduced in the city of Brighton and Hove, England, calls for new buildings to include special bricks that provide nests for solitary bees. Brighton & Hove Council's policy stipulates that all new buildings above five metres should include bee bricks, as well as bird nesting boxes suitable for swifts.
These bee bricks are the same size as regular bricks, but integrate a series of narrow openings like those where solitary bees are known to nest. The aim is to increase opportunities for biodiversity. With solitary bees making up nearly 250 of the approximately 270 bee species in Britain, they play an important role in the natural ecosystem.
"Bee bricks are just one of quite a number of measures that really should be in place to address biodiversity concerns that have arisen through years of neglect of the natural environment," said Robert Nemeth, the councillor behind the initiative. "Increased planting, hedgehog holes, swift boxes and bird feeders are all examples of other cheap and simple ideas that, together, could lead to easy medium-term gains," he told Dezeen. Nemeth proposed the move in 2019 and the stipulation has been included in planning permissions granted by the council since 1 April 2020.
While swift bricks already feature in many UK planning policies, the inclusion of bee bricks is a relatively new development. However Brighton is not alone – councils in Cornwall and Dorset have adopted similar policies.
Faye Clifton of Green&Blue, a company that manufactures bee bricks, said they recreate an existing type of nest that is popular with solitary bees, but which is becoming increasingly rare due to the precision of modern construction.
Bee bricks contain holes where solitary bees can nest, "Solitary bees nest in crumbling mortar work and old brickwork," she said, "but modern buildings are so perfect that all the cavities are blocked."
A third of the world's food production depends on bees and other pollinators, yet approximately one in 10 bee species in Europe is facing extinction. Solitary bees are particularly under threat, partly because most bee-friendly initiatives are focused on honey bees.
The UK government also recently lifted its ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which are known to kill bees, putting these species under further threat.