Arc’s Shaping Better Places sparks change in environment for Sovereign Housing Group

23 December 2020
Claire Hector

We work closely with a number of UK housing associations across community and environment, providing ecological compliance for planning and the extra Arc biodiversity brew for new developments, retrofit of measures for wildlife across existing estates, strategic advice and community engagement, conservation projects and volunteering, resident mentoring and events. Much of our input is informal and collaborative and wherever we can help, we do.


But despite all this, influencing cross-sector and organisational change has been slow and sometimes frustrating (even the housing association thinktank HACT was dismissive of the impact of access to nature and healthy environments on communities when we suggested it a a crucial but missing indicator in their Social Value Calculator several years ago…a good environment for residents they told us was about adequate street lighting and no ASB… contrary to our direct experience!).

However, since then Covid-19 has added huge impetus to awareness of nature loss, climate change and impact on human health and brought it all into sharp focus for many, particularly housing association community teams. This year, when positive local action by residents highlighted a need for change in Sovereign’s verge management, we were literally out on the street talking to the strimmers!  We subsequently ran a Shaping Better Places training session for Sovereign Housing Association during lockdown to help provide them with strategic and practical advice on how to build healthier places for people and wildlife. Sovereign’s Community Officer, Becky Haydock wrote to tell us what’s happened since:

‘Good news. I am now on the Sovereign Green Group, representing communities, as well as chairing the Communities Environment Group – which all started on the back of the ARC presentation on Shaping Better Places. We are six meetings in and have two residents also on the group too.  There is a resident panel planned for next year one we can meet up physically.

There are currently 29 community environment projects active or planned with residents across the business, 10 partners involved and a GreenFest and a club launching next year to encourage residents to recycle, reuse, repair etc.  The Sovereign Green Group leads has a commitment ensuring our homes and communities are eco-friendly. It’s a huge ask and huge task but the Group are keen to influence and change practise.  The new Sustainability strategy is launched and a new Home and Place Standard goes live in the new year.  There seems to be a commitment to the environment that has never been seen before in Sovereign.’


It’s always brilliant to get feedback on things and we’re looking forward to hearing more about how they’re getting on, as well continuing our work with Becky and the Sovereign Group next year.