Baker Consultants support an active programme of research aimed at improving ecological survey and analysis techniques.  Working in collaboration with a Nottinghamshire based ringing group and using Wildlife Acoustics unattended acoustic recording devices (ARDs), Ecologist Steve Docker is researching male European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus bioacoustics. Read more

Welcome to the first volunteer bulletin!

Firstly, thank you for volunteering with the On The Verge project to conserve, monitor and improve the biodiversity in road verges across the Dearne Valley. The Road Verge Biodiversity Project aims to enhance biodiversity across the area by increasing local understanding of the value of verges for biodiversity through practical conservation work and monitoring surveys of key indicator species.

So far a condition assessment of 17km of road verges has been completed to initially identify the quality of these verges to identify where the project can make the biggest biodiversity gains. The condition assessments also looked at the safety of the road verges for volunteers to work on, as well as soil quality, plant species present and potential management activities. Bird and butterfly surveys have now been completed too, with birds including yellowhammer, garden warbler, and 40 other species being recorded. Six species of butterfly were also recorded across the three boroughs during the surveys, with other invertebrates such as the cinnabar moth and white-tailed bumblebee also present

Three species of orchids found on Manvers Way, including Bee Orchid, Southern Marsh Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid

 

The Highways Agency are also becoming increasingly involved in the On The Verge project. We have met with Rotherham who are very keen to be involved in this project. Doncaster and Barnsley meetings are planned for the future. Other private stakeholders are also looking to become involved in the project, so watch this space!

We have also started to develop the On The Verge 5-year Management Plan that will leave a lasting legacy and guide the management of the selected verges. The plan will outline the verges selected for volunteers to manage, containing detailed maps of the roads and where management work shall take place, as well as management activity timescales. The practical conservation work outlined in the plan will focus on bulb planting, wildflower sowing, living bird tables and scrub clearing.

This is where you come in, we’re keen for local communities to engage and drive the management plans, so we would like to hear management ideas from the volunteers. We will be running three Community Meetings to discuss management options, as well as to gain an idea of particular areas of interest.

The meetings will be held on the following dates:

7th August – Elsecar Heritage Centre, Elsecar @ 6pm

8th August – Wentworth Village Hall, Wentworth @ 6pm

14th August – St. Peter’s Church Hall, Barnburgh @ 6pm

Alongside the practical conservation work will also be a monitoring programme. The monitoring surveys aim to increase biological records of road verges as they are severely under recorded. The surveys will target key indicator species including plants, birds and butterflies. The training workshops for plant, bird and butterfly recording are to be planned soon, so keep a look out!

If you have any questions about the On The Verge project that you would like to discuss, please contact:

Katie Watson

Ecologist, Baker Consultants

Mobile:             07701 289321

 

 

 

From once being the most common species of owl in the UK, barn owls (Tyto alba) have undergone a long-term decline in numbers. This has mirrored the increase in agricultural intensity and landscape development, which has led in turn to a loss of roost and nesting sites and a reduction in the numbers of small mammals they feed on. These factors, coupled with persecution, the increase in road traffic and other urban hazards, have led to the breeding numbers of barn owl falling from an estimated 12,000 pairs in 1933, to approximately 4,000 breeding pairs today.

The number of breeding barn owls appears to fluctuate year on year, but encouragingly, the overall trend in recent years is for their population decline to be levelling off. Despite the apparent halt in the steep decline in their numbers, their population remains vulnerable to the aforementioned threats. This highlights the importance of undertaking targeted barn owl surveys on potential development sites that hold favourable breeding, roosting or feeding habitat.

Legislation

Barn owls are given protection against killing, injury or capture under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), with nests given further protection against disturbance under Schedule 1 of the same act. Developers therefore should be mindful of undertaking targeted barn owl surveys at sites holding favourable barn owl breeding/roosting habitat, to avoid potentially committing a legal offence.

Favoured Habitat

Barn owls use a variety of roost and nest locations in natural environments such as tree hollows, rock crevices and sea cliffs and man-made structures, such as those found in agricultural, industrial and domestic settings. They favour rough, tussocky grassland when hunting their preferred prey of small mammals.

Breeding Ecology

Barn owls have been known to breed in every month of the year but the usual breeding months are March to August, with peak breeding taking place between April and June.  One in ten pairs will then produce a second brood later in the summer. The four to six eggs usually hatch after a calendar month, with the young fledging between eight and ten weeks old.

Barn Owl Survey

Barn owl surveys are usually requested in relation to planning applications to convert or remove buildings located in rural surroundings. An ecologist has to hold a Class Survey Licence issued by Natural England, if they are to provide a thorough investigation of a site and fully establish the presence and status of barn owls.

After an initial desk study to obtain records of barn owls for the surrounding area, a site visit is undertaken to identify any signs that barn owl are using (or have previously used) the site for roosting or nesting. Signs of barn owl presence on a site include pellets, feathers and droppings, as well as nest debris, eggs and carcasses (of owls or prey).

Mitigation

If a barn owl nest and/or roost site has to be disturbed or destroyed, alternative nesting or roosting provision must be provided, ideally within the structure being renovated, or if the current structure is to be demolished, within a replacement structure. If this is not possible, specially designed artificial nest/roost boxes should be positioned alongside and facing suitable rough grassland habitats, away from hazards such as busy roads and tall structures.

Artificial boxes should ideally be positioned outside the usual nesting months over the autumn/winter period.

Baker Consultants Barn Owl Surveys

Baker Consultants has two ecologists that hold the Class Licence for barn owls, following intensive training by the Barn Owl Trust and demonstrating their competence  in undertaking barn owl surveys.

The numbers of breeding bird species in the UK vary year on year, but well over 200 species are known to regularly breed here. Bird species known to regularly occur in the UK are periodically assessed through a collaboration of the UK’s leading governmental and non-governmental conservation organisations. The most recent 2015 review used a range of criteria to place a total of 244 regularly occurring UK species onto one of three lists:

  • 27.5% of species were listed as Red (those with the most rapidly declining populations). This is up from the 21% listed in the previous review in 2009.
  • 39.3% were listed as Amber (populations declining at a slower rate). This is down from 51% in 2009.
  • 33.2% were listed as Green (populations stable or increasing). This is up from 28% in 2009.

A total of 67 species are now on the Red list, up considerably from the 40 species that were on the list in 2002.

A similar collaboration of the UK’s conservation organisations reported in 2012 that there had been an estimated 44 million reduction in the number of breeding birds in the UK since 1966. These figures highlight the problems many bird species face in a rapidly changing environment and emphasises the need for accurate and effective surveys to assess and eventually inform advice to offset or avoid any potential adverse effects that vulnerable bird species may suffer as a result of a development. This is not only important for the UK but can be of international importance, particularly as the UK holds internationally significant numbers of many species of birds.

Protection for breeding birds

All UK nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) 1981, which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or take, damage or destroy its nest whilst in use or being built, or take or destroy its eggs.

Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 places a duty on every public authority to have regard to conserving biodiversity and requires that the Secretary of State must publish a list of the living organisms and types of habitats which are of principal importance for the purpose of biodiversity. The Secretary of State must take steps to further the conservation of those living organisms in any list published under this section. A number of bird species are listed as Species of Principal Importance (SPI) and therefore protected under the provisions of the Act. Species of Principal Importance are a material consideration for a Local Planning Authority in the exercise of its duties. There are 49 bird Species of Principal Importance in England and 51 in Wales (listed under Section 42 of the NERC Act). A similar number of bird species are protected under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

When do I need a breeding bird survey?

Where habitats that could support breeding birds will be affected by a development, a breeding bird survey will be necessary. These habitats could be features such as woodland, hedgerows, barns/buildings, ponds or grassland.

What is a breeding bird survey?

Surveys for breeding birds normally involve an experienced ecologist visiting the site at least three times between April and June. A transect is walked around the site which includes all the habitats previously identified and the area which is to be developed. Bird species and their behaviour are mapped and an assessment is made of the significance of the species present and an estimate of the number of breeding territories.

This information can be used to design mitigation to avoid or reduce adverse impacts on breeding birds and to compensate for any loss of habitat.

Why Baker Consultants?

Baker Consultants have a number of ecologists that have years of experience and knowledge in conducting breeding bird surveys, as well as whole range of other types of bird survey. For general information on our bird survey expertise, visit our bird surveys page where you can listen to Carlos Abrahams, our Technical Director, discussing a typical bird survey, or read our pages on wetland bird surveys and winter bird surveys.

Each year, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) presents a series of awards to celebrate achievements of both the profession and of individual practitioners working within the ecological and environmental management sector.

The Innovation Award sets out to recognise a successful organisation demonstrating a novel approach to professional practice in any aspect of ecology and environmental management. The award also recognises those who are delivering sustainable benefits for society. Our nomination relates to the research and development of bioacoustics survey skills for the monitoring of western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).

The Project:

The species the project focused on, western capercaillie and European nightjar, are cryptic species of conservation concern, sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance. The project demonstrated that bird bioacoustics results in increased species detection and financial savings related to reduced survey time, whilst providing a more quantitative assessment of the numbers of breeding nightjar pairs. The applications extend further, providing a minimally intrusive means of measuring nightjar breeding pair numbers at site level, or as part of a national census. This is particularly crucial for nightjars as conventional survey methods may be under-recording this species, conversely, the use of ‘churring’ can lead to over-estimated numbers of breeding pairs. Taken together, this results in serious implications for the conservation of nightjars, which are declining in both numbers and range.

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) phrases and minor (low frequency) phrases

The second stage of the project focusing on capercaillie lek activity was also hugely successful, readily recognising vocalisations using unsupervised software verified by manual analysis, despite challenges due to other bird species and environmental noise. Scottish capercaillie populations are at a critically low level, with the reasons for their decline being complex and not fully understood. This research has the capability of dramatically improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of conventional lek surveys. Previously unmonitored areas can now be feasibly surveyed, and high-quality long-term data can be interrogated for seasonal trends. Results also importantly indicated that traditional lek surveys can in fact cause disturbance to the birds at the lek. Baker Consultants aim to continue using bioacoustics to further aid the spatial and temporal monitoring of capercaillie to benefit conservation management efforts.

Capercaille lek showing the two key phrases

Baker Consultants intention for the work is to prove the applicability of bioacoustic methods and increase adoption by conservation bodies and ecological consultancies, which have not yet taken on the practical applications of this valuable tool. This work has been done entirely on a pro-bono basis, principally with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage.  Presently, two peer-reviewed papers have been published and made freely available, with more currently in production. Additionally, the UK’s first workshop on bird bioacoustics has been successfully organised, with over 40 participants contributing to the development of a draft bioacoustics survey protocol.  This is to be submitted for publication to CIEEMs In Practice soon, to widen awareness of the method, and gain additional feedback from the wider community.

 

Update:16/05/2018

On April 13th the Court of Justice of the European Union published its ruling in the Case C323/17 with regards to the Habitats Directive. Since the ruling, the industry has been trying to get to grips with what is one of the most unhelpful and contradictory rulings that I have had to deal with in 15 years of working on the Habitats Directive.

It has been standard working practice for plans or projects that may affect European nature conservation sites such as Thames Basin Heaths to include incorporated mitigation measures from the initial stages of the Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) process. In many cases this screening stage (or Likely Significant Effects) negates the need for projects to proceed onto a full appropriate assessment. Projects such as housing ensure strategic mitigation measures are incorporated into the planning proposals to prevent likely significant effects upon these high value sites. This approach is also consistent with the Environmental Impact Directive, previous HRA case law (Waddenzee) and domestic case law (Hart).

However, the People Over Wind case has ruled that mitigation cannot be taken into account when considering the screening test for Likely Significant Effects. Therefore, many developments cannot now be screened out of requiring a full appropriate assessment, which requires more time and involves more consultation than would previously be spent on a ‘screening request’. Furthermore, it throws into question the legality of many strategic mitigation systems that have been put in place to protect sites such as the Dorset Heaths and Thames Basin Heaths.

This ruling has major implications for developments where a Habitats Regulations Assessment may be required. In order to comply with this ruling and avoid legal challenge we are advising that any current applications be reviewed to ensure that the HRA process has been followed and is compliant with this judgement.

 The People Over Wind case involved mitigation measures to prevent sediment affecting freshwater pearl mussels due to installation of a wind turbine connection cable.

Case Details:

The conclusion of the ruling is: “Article 6(3) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora must be interpreted as meaning that, in order to determine whether it is necessary to carry out, subsequently, an appropriate assessment of the implications, for a site concerned, of a plan or project, it is not appropriate, at the screening stage, to take account of the measures intended to avoid or reduce the harmful effects [mitigation] of the plan or project on that site” [my emphasis].

For those involved in the HRA process this a significant shift in emphasis, which will result in many more projects failing the first of the HRA legal tests of whether the plan or project will give rise to Likely Significant Effects. Previously, domestic case law has allowed mitigation measures to be taken into account at the ‘screening test’, avoiding the need to progress onto a full appropriate assessment. However, this ruling means that this approach is now no longer valid.

This issue had been addressed in the English courts in 2008 in the Hart District Council case where it was ruled that “As a matter of common sense, anything which encourages the proponents of plans and projects to incorporate mitigation measures at the earliest possible stage in the evolution of their plan or project is surely to be encouraged.

I am satisfied that there is no legal requirement that a screening assessment under Regulation 48(1) [now Regulation 63 (1)] must be carried out in the absence of any mitigation measures that form part of a plan or project. On the contrary, the competent authority is required to consider whether the project, as a whole, including such measures, if they are part of the project, is likely to have a significant effect on the SPA If the competent authority does not agree with the proponent’s view as to the likely efficacy of the proposed mitigation measures, or is left in some doubt as to their efficacy, then it will require an appropriate assessment because it will not have been able to exclude the risk of a significant effect on the basis of objective information.”

Previously some practitioners have made the distinction between mitigation measures that are additional to the project (not taken into account at the screening stage), and mitigation measures that are ‘incorporated mitigation measures’ (integral part of the plan or project and should be taken into account). The new judgement does not address this distinction, however the proposed mitigation in the case in question (involving potential impact of sediment pollution from installation of a wind turbine connection cable on freshwater pearl mussels) was to be agreed with the planning authority post-consent and detailed in a ‘Construction Management Plan’. It is therefore questionable whether the mitigation was an integral part of the project as envisaged by the Hart judgement. The logic behind the ruling is that a more detailed examination of the effectiveness of mitigation measures is needed, and by considering mitigation at the screening stage a higher level of scrutiny may otherwise by circumvented under an appropriate assessment. However the lack of detail within the ruling means that the overall conclusion is somewhat blunt and does not take into account how well thought out the mitigation measures may be, or whether they are tried and tested techniques where the efficacy can be considered certain to prevent harm to the site.

My view is that the ruling is entirely misjudged and I very much hope that Member States use this opportunity to seek clarification on this ruling. In the Hart Case it was said that “…the provisions in the Habitats Directive are intended to be an aid to effective environmental decision making, not a legal obstacle course”. This unfortunate decision has created many more hurdles within the already complex and lengthy Habitat Regulations Assessment process.

From supervising the licensed removal of roofing material at a bat roost, to overseeing tree removal or the creation of ponds, an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECOW) role is varied. ECoWs play an important role on construction sites, fully briefing clients to avoid conflict with legislation or planning consents, whilst protecting biodiversity features during site clearance and development activities.

An ECoW is assisted by guidance and recommendations, as set out under British Standard BS42020:2013, standing advice from Government bodies, and site-specific planning conditions or Construction Environmental Management Plans. A good ECoW will have a full knowledge of the ongoing development requirements, local and site biodiversity and the client’s legal obligations. A toolbox talk is always given to outline the environmental and sustainability issues, as well as health and safety matters, pertinent to the activity about to be undertaken, and the ECoW is present on site, or easily contactable, when sensitive works are to take place.

Baker Consultants assists our clients throughout the planning process, from the initial identification of constraints and gathering of pre-application baseline ecological data, to the implementation of mitigation/enhancement measures and monitoring. Many projects have required an ECoW on site during the construction phase. The benefits our clients receive are experienced staff with sound site-specific ecological knowledge and the support of a company network of in-house specialists to ensure that legal and planning obligations are followed throughout the construction process .

Principal Ecologist Mark Woods overseeing pond creation.

 

Our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, was invited to present a talk at the recent Herpetofauna Workers Meeting.  This national conference has been running annually for nearly 30 years, and attracts around 200 delegates. It is the main meeting covering reptile and amphibian ecology and conservation in the UK.

 

The meeting attracts a diverse audience representing: conservation organisations, ecological consultants, statutory bodies, land managers, academic institutions and students, and enthusiastic volunteers.

Carlos was speaking about his recent publication on declining amphibian populations in northern France. This research, with fieldwork carried out between 1974 and 2011, was undertaken with colleagues from the Netherlands to repeatedly track amphibian populations and habitat change over an area of northern France.

The research showed that common adaptable species remained widespread, but that some rarer species, with more exacting habitat requirements, declined significantly. The main reasons for these were pond loss, increasing urbanisation and changes in agricultural practice in the area, with shifts from pasture to arable production.

However, the benefits of practical conservation effort were also demonstrated, as new ponds created in areas of good quality habitat , were quickly colonised by a range of amphibians. This shows that habitat creation/restoration can play a valuable role in conservation, counteracting the adverse effects of land use change and development.

Baker Consultants, alongside Wildlife Acoustics and Nottingham Trent University, recently organised a national workshop meeting on Bird Bioacoustics.  This was attended by 40 delegates from the consultancy, academic and conservation sectors, who discussed the use of acoustic recording methods for bird survey and monitoring.   The technology and techniques for recording bird songs and calls in the field have developed rapidly in recent years, and can offer improved data and greater coverage than traditional survey methods. The workshop aimed to address this, highlighting the significant benefits and starting the communication of important principles and best practice guidance between professionals.

As part of the output from the workshop, the speakers have kindly allowed their presentations to be made available.  These can be accessed using the links below:

Carlos Abrahams Bird Bioacoustics

Rich Beason Bird Bioacoustics

Paul Howden-Leach Bird Bioacoustics

Amy Leedale Bird Bioacoustics

Stuart Newson Bird Bioacoustics

Paul White Bird Bioacoustics

 

Baker Consultants is seeking a Principal or Senior Ecologist to help deliver and expand our project work in southern England. We are looking for a highly experienced consultant who is willing to work remotely from our main office in Derbyshire, has the ability to attract new clients, and the drive to continue growing our business.

Location is flexible, although the M4/M3/M25 corridor would be ideal. Basic salary will be commensurate with experience – and we operate a profit-related bonus scheme.

About You

You have at least ten years experience of working in consultancy, with an excellent knowledge of the region, and the ability to manage complex projects. You will have developed a technical specialism over your career, hold protected species licences and have broad experience, both in terms of species and survey techniques, ensuring best practice as standard and challenging the norms where new methods would lead to better outcomes. You are self-motivated, and able to run with existing projects while attracting new work.

Download the full job spec here and email your application via cv and covering letter to jobs@bakerconsultants.co.uk

 

More key figures from the construction industry are adding their voice to the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. As reported in The Guardian, David Thomas the Chief Executive of Barratt Developments, the UK’s largest homebuilder, has stated that the UK leaving the EU would hit housebuilding workforces hard, in turn exacerbating the housing crisis.

A recent survey by Building magazine indicates that David is not alone in his views. Results show two-thirds of the construction sector back continued EU membership, with over half of those surveyed believing that Brexit would reduce foreign investment and drive up both labour and material costs.

Housebuilding could suffer from skills shortages if the UK leaves the EU

Housebuilding could suffer from skills shortages if the UK leaves the EU

Housebuilding skills shortages

One of the key predicted impacts of Brexit for the construction sector is an increase in the current skills shortage. As David states, the main challenge for housebuilders is labour availability. In terms of Barratt, 30-40% of their London workforce originate from mainland Europe. Similarly, Mott Macdonald the UK’s largest independent engineering firm predicts they would face a significant skills shortage if the UK opts out of the EU and property developer Berkeley employs half of its subcontractors from eastern Europe. If the free movement of labour were curtailed following Brexit, the resulting skills shortage would affect the housebuilding industry’s ability to build new homes.

Nationwide, official figures show that almost 12% of the UK’s 2.1 million construction workers are from other countries, with the majority from the EU. The true figure is believed by experts to be even higher. By far the most common country of origin for foreign UK construction workers is Poland, followed by Romania.

An open letter backing the vote for the UK to remain in the EU has been signed by The Shard contractor Mace, property firm Jones Lang LaSalle, and Mott MacDonald.

The skills shortage is one of the main reasons for housebuilding having high numbers of overseas workers and this is partly due to the financial crisis and subsequent recession, which caused a slump in construction projects. Migrant workers have typically been seen as a short-term fix. For instance, research by design and consultancy firm Arcadis found that 53,000 extra bricklayers were needed to build the target of 200,000 new homes a year.

Our view

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:

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, agrees that the UK should remain in the EU

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, agrees that the UK should remain in the EU

“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.

Read the full Guardian article here.

In response to the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) surveyed its members on their views on what Brexit would mean for the UK’s natural environment.

Baker Consultants has made clear why we are concerned about Brexit, publishing several pieces on our views on why the EU is important for nature legislation and the negative implications of Brexit for the ecology and construction sectors and the environment. (See our pieces titled: ‘Brexit could worsen the construction sector’s skills shortage‘; ‘UK’s potential exit from the EU threatens economic and regulatory uncertainty‘; British exit from EU would be bad for UK renewable energy business‘; and ‘The EU is good for business and the environment‘).

Snapshot of our Scottish Energy News piece

Snapshot of our Scottish Energy News piece

CIEEM’s survey

Given this, we welcomed CIEEM’s survey and our Managing Director, Andrew Baker, and other colleagues made up several of the 841 respondents.

Today, CIEEM has publicised the results of the survey, showing that an overwhelming majority of ecology professionals (nearly 87% of respondents) are concerned about Brexit having a detrimental impact on the ecology and environmental management sector as a profession. Only 1% said Brexit would be beneficial.

CIEEM members are concerned about Brexit and its potentially negative impact on our efforts to safeguard our environmental quality and its effects on our health, well-being and prosperity.  Other concerns include less effective and integrated action on climate change, invasive species and plant and animal diseases, as well as negative impacts on protected areas and environmental schemes on farmland.

Cover image from CIEEM's EU referendum survey

Cover image from CIEEM’s EU referendum survey

Here we pull out some of the key statistics from CIEEM’s survey:

  • 67% indicated that Brexit would have a negative impact on their company or organisation
  • Over 93% believed that EU environmental legislation has been beneficial to the UK’s natural environment
  • If the UK were to leave the EU, respondents felt that there would be significant negative impacts on:
    • Protection of certain wildlife species (90%)
    • Protection of the natural environment for its environmental benefits (89%)
    • Benefits to migratory species (e.g. birds and cetaceans) (87%)
    • Improved water quality and the recovery of freshwater fish populations (77%)
    • Reduction of nitrates in the environment (74%)
    • Recovery of marine fisheries (74%)
    • Improvements in air quality (70%)
  • 85% do not believe current UK environmental policies would have been delivered to the standard that they are now if we had remained outside the EU
  • 93% say EU environmental directives have had positive additional benefits on UK habitats and species
  • 73% believed that UK nature conservation policy and legislation delivery is dependent, at least to some degree, on EU funding mechanisms
  • Nearly 84% of respondents thought that the UK had achieved more for nature conservation as an EU member than it would have done if it had relied only on international nature conservation agreements.

Furthermore, the timing of the UK’s proposed exit from the EU could have implications for large infrastructure projects such as HS2.

As CIEEM President, Dr Stephanie Wray, says: A change in regulatory regime, or worse, a policy vacuum, would be disastrous at a time of high construction output, both for the environment, and for the contractors attempting to deliver major projects without a clear legislative framework.”

In summary, CIEEM CEO, Sally Hayns said:

It is clear that leaving the EU would have far-reaching effects for those employed in ecology and management of the natural environment. Not only would there be an impact on jobs and livelihoods, with over 50% of our members expressing concern about their own job security, but the industry would be severely damaged. The skills that are playing such a significant role in delivering improvements in environmental quality could be lost, and there would be significant repercussions for the UK’s natural environment.”

Read the full results 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.

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:

Following the announcement of our latest marine contract win to provide underwater noise and marine mammal activity monitoring during construction of Wikinger offshore wind farm, our Managing Director Andrew Baker has discussed his views on the importance of the UK remaining in the EU. This has been published by Scottish Energy News and is reproduced below.

Snapshot of Scottish Energy News piece, reproduced below

Snapshot of Scottish Energy News piece, reproduced below

Scottish Energy News article

Ecological consultancy Baker Consultants recently announced the award of its latest significant European contract for Iberdrola on the Wikinger offshore wind farm. 

Here Managing Director Andrew Baker – one of the UK’s experts in nature conservation law – discusses the UK membership of the EU and the possible threat that the UK leaving the EU might bring for the renewable energy sector.

By ANDREW BAKER

I strongly believe that the UK must remain within the European Union. Not only is our membership of the EU good for business, it also benefits the environment.

As a company, we trade internationally with companies based in other EU countries. In particular, the marine side of our business is very active in German waters both in the North Sea and the Baltic.

Our latest project will see us providing an underwater noise and marine mammal activity monitoring service during the construction phase of the Wikinger offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea. We will also monitor underwater noise emissions as well as the activity of harbour porpoises that may be present within and around the wind farm during piling operations.

As contracts such as this typically account for up to half of our group’s turnover, a figure that is expected to increase in the future, the UK’s membership of the EU is extremely important to our business.

While at present we have a very good working relationship with our EU customers, this would clearly be threatened if the UK were to leave the EU, as we would no longer have the level playing field that the EU enshrines in law.

In addition, the benefits of EU membership for the environment must not be underestimated. The environmental profession is now starting to contemplate the implications of a potential UK exit from the EU.

A British ‘yes’ to quit the EU is likely to have a disproportionate impact upon the ecology profession, not only because of the likely economic turmoil that would ensue, but also the considerable impact that it would have on the regulatory framework.

Much of the law that protects wildlife in the UK has its origin in European directives, such as the Habitats and Birds Directives (collectively known as the ‘Nature Directives’), Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

If the UK were to leave the EU, this would throw our environmental legislation into disarray, potentially leading to years of legal wrangling while the UK decides what legislation should be reinvented and what should be dropped.

The Nature Directives have recently been the subject of an EU Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) process, a rolling programme to keep the entire stock of EU legislation under review. They were given an overwhelming clean bill of health. The public consultation received over half a million responses, more than any other consultation, of which the vast majority were supportive.

Rory Stewart (DEFRA Parliamentary Under-Secretary) was very supportive of the Directives, stating, “The UK, like other Member States, does not want to renegotiate the Nature Directives”.

However, as someone who is familiar with the practical side of implementing EU Directives, I have often been critical of the UK’s approach. The law is never perfect, but I am of the opinion that the majority of the problems we have with the Nature Directives are as a result of domestic implementation, rather than a fault of the Directives per se.

I am active in the campaign to stay in the EU. As a member of the UK Environmental Law Association’s nature conservation working group, I have been involved in assessing the potential impact on nature conservation of the UK leaving the EU. I represented the ecology profession at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity meeting to discuss the review of the Habitat and Birds Directives.

During this meeting, I stressed my views of the importance of retaining both these directives as well as continuing the UK’s membership of the EU.

We are very proud that Baker Consultants is an exporter to our EU partners, however I am very concerned that if the UK were to leave the EU this would be a serious threat to this aspect of our business.

If this does happen, we would have no choice but to move our business to a country that remains in the EU, whether it be on the continent or another country within a devolved United Kingdom.

We are already looking into contingency plans.

About Andrew

Andrew Baker was recently awarded a fellowship by his professional body – the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. He is also an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association.