Following a successful period of trapping, our ecologists cleared amphibians from all areas of the Thorpe Park site in 2015 and relocated them to the Green Park receptor site. This work was carried out before newts, toads and frogs entered into a reduced activity period over winter.

Newt fencing at Thorpe Park business park by Assistant Ecologist Katie Watson

Newt fencing at Thorpe Park business park by Assistant Ecologist Katie Watson

Around Christmas, we began habitat improvements in the receptor site and since then have completed a number of key tasks. This included the creation of three new ponds and two hibernacula (these are buried log piles that provide refuge for newts, toads and frogs). Additionally, a large bund has been reduced and one of the existing ponds has been re-modelled to enhance its ecology.

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In preparation for the spring, our ecologists have also been busy mounting bat and bird boxes in wooded areas on and adjacent to the Thorpe Park site. These boxes will provide roosting and nesting opportunities. Over the next month, aquatic vegetation will be translocated to the new and existing ponds in Green Park. Final mitigation works will include sowing a wildflower seed-mix in the receptor site and hand-clearing the wetland areas of any remaining amphibians.

Read more about our work at Thorpe Park here.

Prime minister David Cameron recently announced that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU is to be held on 23rd June 2016. Many industries are now sharing their views on what it would mean for their industry if the UK were to leave the EU – termed ‘Brexit’.

As reported by UK Construction Week, housebuilders have warned that if the UK does leave the EU it could lead to a shortage of skilled construction labour, constrain investment in new house building and consequently further worsen the UK’s housing shortage.

Construction begins on a new residential development. The construction industry could be negatively affected by Brexit

Construction begins on a new residential development. The construction industry could be negatively affected by Brexit

This would be especially problematic as the construction industry is already suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. According to the Home Builders Federation, the industry is already reliant on overseas labour and would need additional overseas labour in order to close the current housing shortfall.

Baker Consultants’ managing director Andrew Baker points out that a skills shortage resulting from the UK leaving the EU will not be confined to the construction industry:

“I believe Brexit would have a disproportionate impact upon the ecology profession, not only because of the likely economic turmoil that would follow, but also the impact it would have on the regulatory framework. For instance, much of the law that protects UK wildlife originates in European directives. Brexit would throw our environmental legislation into disarray.

“It would also have specific consequences for us at Baker Consultants, as our in-house team is truly international and we have some of the best scientists from across Europe working for us. Exiting the EU would be a major constraint to our ability to recruit key talent and would damage our ability to compete internationally.”

Read more on why Baker Consultants believes the UK should remain in the EU in our article for Scottish Energy News.

Baker Consultants was awarded a contract with Commercial Estates Group (CEG) to provide comprehensive ecology input for the proposed Hele Park development scheme in Devon at outline planning stage. Following this, Redrow, the housebuilder developing the site, subsequently contracted the team to provide ecological advice on the detailed planning application for Phase Three of the development.

One of the plans of Redrow's development at Hele Park

One of the plans of Redrow’s development at Hele Park

The baseline ecology surveys and Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (LEMP) helped to ensure that the ecological impact of the development was reduced and that the development was integrated into the wider landscape setting. Following our advice, important ecological features were retained and new habitat created as part of a robust green infrastructure. Bats, dormice, birds and amphibians are all set to benefit from early ecological input into the development.

The Hele Park development was a particularly complex scheme that successfully received planning permission with very few conditions for its size. Early involvement from our experienced team in assessing and designing the ecology aspects into the project contributed to this success and that of the subsequent Hele Park Phase Three.

Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director at Baker Consultants, said: “The Hele Park development benefitted from our involvement from the early stages of the project. Our expertise allowed us to provide a cost-effective, innovative package of ecological surveys and a comprehensive Landscape and Ecology Management Plan to ensure ecological compliance at all stages of this complex scheme.”

Read the full case study here.

Planning and Design Group (P&DG) has obtained outline planning consent with all matters reserved except access, subject to completion of the Section 106 Agreement, for a high quality, sustainable residential development of 250 dwellings on the edge of Oakwood, Derby. P&DG has been engaged in the longstanding promotion of the site through to an allocation in the emerging Derby City Local Plan Part 1: Core Strategy, working proactively with planners and fellow consultants to secure the positive decision at Planning Committee, concurring with officer recommendations.
Planning and Design Group logo

Planning and Design Group logo

 
The development also includes 75 much-needed affordable homes, provision for an ecological wildlife corridor extending beyond Chaddesden Wood Local Nature Reserve, over 3 hectares of accessible public open space, a neighbourhood play facility, new footpath links and pedestrian crossing to facilitate better linkages towards the Breadsall railway cutting. An overcapacity in the on-site drainage attenuation system has been designed into the north-eastern corner of the site to manage surface water both on and offsite, responding directly to concerns raised during the consultation about flooding further afield in the Breadsall area. Moreover, approximately £1.2 million has been proposed to be directly invested in Oakwood, towards the maintenance and support for new open space, leisure and community facilities, and highway improvements to the A61 corridor as part of the associated S106 Agreement.
 
Following extensive public consultation before and after the submission, P&DG and the rest of the application team have secured a highly desirable development that received the support of material consultees including the Highways Authority, Derbyshire County Archaeology, Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water. The landscape and amenity value of the site, which forms part of a designated Green Wedge were found not to be significant when tested against the Council’s lack of a five-year housing land supply and the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF). Ultimately, the location of development has been proven to be very sustainable in assisting the city’s housing delivery to provide family homes, that should respond positively to the existing built form when developed as part of the future Reserved Matters submission.
 
Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director of Baker Consultants said: “Baker Consultants is pleased to be working with P&DG on this scheme”.

Andrew Baker has been invited to speak about the legal position of European Protected Species (EPS) at a Planning and Design Group (P&DG) breakfast seminar on 17th March.

European Protected Species: A minefield that is being slowly cleared?

The presence of European Protected Species such as bats, great crested newts and dormice can be a considerable problem for developers seeking planning permission and may be used as a reason for planning refusal.

Great Crested Newts (like this one pictured) are European Protected Species. Image by Senior Ecologist, Matt Cook

Great Crested Newts (like this one pictured) are European Protected Species. Image by Senior Ecologist, Matt Cook

The interaction between the EPS legal process and the planning system has been the subject of extensive legal dispute. In 2009, caselaw established that local planning authorities (LPAs) should consider the legal tests associated with EPS. However, more recent caselaw suggests that a more ‘relaxed’ approach is appropriate and LPAs should not duplicate the legal processes afforded to these species. Furthermore, Natural England (which has statutory responsibility for EPS), in the face of strong criticism from industry and the ecology profession, is now starting to make significant changes to the way that they implement the EPS licensing process. This could offer welcome improvements to the process.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, is an ecologist with almost three decades of experience and is an expert in the practical application of nature conservation law. He was recently made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) in recognition of his contribution to this subject and is a member of a liaison team that has been working with Natural England to try and streamline the administration of the EPS licensing process. He is a veteran of many public inquiries where EPS were an issue and has appeared as an expert witness to local plan inquiries and parliamentary select committees.

Bats (including these Whiskered Brandt's) are European Protected Species. Image by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

Bats (including these Whiskered Brandt’s) are European Protected Species. Image by Ecologist, Courtenay Holden

About the seminar

In his talk, Andrew will review the structural basis of the legal protection afforded to EPS, and how it is administered in England by the LPAs and Natural England. He will explore the relevant caselaw and current legal position and report on the latest progress in this rapidly changing area.

The seminar takes place on Thursday 17th March from 7.30am in Nottingham. Alongside Andrew, there will be advice from P&DG on ‘Maximising Development Opportunities in the current Planning Environment’ as well as a talk from another guest speaker.

For anyone interested in attending the seminar, please contact us for more details.

More about European Protected Species

For more information on protected species licensing, and the services we offer, click here.

For information on individual protected species and our surveying capabilities, follow the below links:

Today is World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2nd Feb each year to mark the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (aka the Ramsar Convention) is an intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have become ‘Contracting Parties’.

There are currently:

  • 169 Contracting Parties
  • 2,227 Ramsar Sites
  • 214,875,598 ha of designated Ramsar sites.
Wetland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

Wetland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

The Ramsar Convention: mission

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international co-operation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems, providing essential services and supplying all our fresh water. However, the degradation and conversion of wetlands to other uses is common.

Under the three pillars of the Convention, all Contracting Parties commit to:

  • work towards the wise use of all their wetlands;
  • designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the ‘Ramsar List’) and ensure their effective management;
  • co-operate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.

Learn more

Download the ‘Introducing the Convention on Wetlands’ PDF leaflet here or visit the Ramsar website to read more about the convention.