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.

Our Ecologist Courtenay Holden supplies several of the UK’s conservation organisations with greetings cards, all of which feature her drawings and designs of British and European wildlife. As well as qualifications in biosciences, Courtenay also has an arts degree and has exhibited paintings in New Zealand, France and England. In her spare time, she photographs or collects interesting invertebrate specimens to draw, and produces artwork from these as well as mammals and birds observed in the field. These artworks are digitised and produced as limited edition greeting cards.

Some of Ecologist Courtenay Holden's greetings cards designs

Some of Ecologist Courtenay Holden’s greetings cards designs

Proceeds from the card sales allow Courtenay to volunteer her spare time on a range of wildlife-related projects including independent research, bat conservation, and hazel dormouse reintroduction and monitoring groups. Similarly, the majority of the organisations that stock the greetings cards focus on research, education, conservation and habitat protection or creation programmes. Sales of Courtenay’s cards are therefore benefiting wildlife and helping make some of Britain’s more secretive or hard-to-spot species more accessible to everyone.

More of Ecologist Courtenay Holden's greetings cards design

More of Ecologist Courtenay Holden’s greetings cards design

Courtenay is working on new beetle and bird designs for 2016, and her range of cards can be bought through Wildlife Trust and RSPB visitor shops around Britain, Butterfly Conservation and Buglife online shops, several National Park and WWT reserve visitor centres around Britain, and online here.

Examples of Ecologist Courtenay Holden's Christmas card designs (the foil is applied on top of these designs)

Examples of Ecologist Courtenay Holden’s Christmas card designs (the foil is applied on top of these designs)

Courtenay’s latest foil Christmas card designs (see above) are also available now.

 

 

Andrew Baker, Managing Director and founder of Baker Consultants, has been made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

In elevating Andrew to being a Fellow, CIEEM cited his outstanding contribution in the development and interpretation of nature conservation law, and his contribution to advancing the use of bioacoustics as an ecological surveying and monitoring tool.

Andrew Baker receiving his Fellowship award from John Box, then-President of CIEEM. Photo by CIEEM

Andrew Baker receiving his Fellowship award from John Box, then-President of CIEEM. Photo by CIEEM

With almost three decades of professional experience, Andrew has a particular interest in the law, and he has been very active in this area through his work with the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), teaching and frequent publications. This expertise is valued highly by our clients and he is a veteran of many public inquiries where his knowledge of the subject is critical.

Contact us today to discuss your project.

Finalist Wales Green Energy Awards 2015

The 2015 Wales Green Energy Award finalists have been announced and Baker Consultants has been nominated alongside Newcastle University for a Contribution to Skills & Training award!

Our nomination relates to the research and development of bioacoustics survey skills for the monitoring of European nightjar, a species of bird often perceived as being in conflict with wind farm developments and operations. Nightjars are widespread in Wales and can be a considerable constraint to development as they receive special legal protection.

Bioacoustics and the nightjar

Traditional survey methods used to establish the presence of nightjars, a bird both elusive and cryptic in behaviour, are expensive and can necessitate walked transect surveys, tape luring surveys and radio tracking to map their distribution and nest sites.

During 2013 and 2014, we carried out research into the use of bioacoustics survey methods as an alternative to conventional methods.

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

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

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, says: “At their basic level, bioacoustics surveys involve placing recording devices out in the field, often for extended periods, and recording animal sounds. This has many advantages over conventional surveys techniques, as a large amount of data can be gathered over an extended period of time as recording devices are left unattended for up to three months. Such data is critical, making it possible to establish whether records of nightjar are simply those passing through or those with established territories on the site.This can provide crucial information regarding whether a development gains approval. Furthermore, the costs of bioacoustics surveys are much lower than conventional methods”.

Baker Consultants also funded research by Dr Mieke Zwart as part of a joint project led by Dr Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University. The research proved that the use of bioacoustics was much more effective than established methods and was published as a peer-reviewed paper. This established the value of bioacoustics in nightjar surveying and paved the way for wider use of this cost-effective survey technique. There is also considerable potential for further development of this technique to allow a more detailed understanding of the use of a site by nightjar and other important species.

The Awards

The Wales Green Energy Awards are in their third year, and organised by RenewableUK Cymru to celebrate the success and achievements of the green energy industry in Wales. The award winners will be announced on Friday 6 November in Cardiff.

David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, said: “We are always delighted by the quality of submissions for the Wales Green Energy Awards, and this year is no exception. Each of the shortlisted individuals or organisations should feel extremely proud of what they have achieved over the last 12 months, often in the face of challenging political and policy decisions.”

Baker Consultants and Wales

Baker Consultants has been providing ecological services to projects throughout Wales for a number of years and this year we consolidated our presence with an office in Swansea, following increased demand in the region and growth in the renewables sector. Read more in our article here.

Contact a member of our Welsh team today to discuss your project

Baker Consultants strongly believes 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.

Baker Consultants trades internationally and currently 50% of our turnover is with companies that are based in EU countries. We expect this export of our work to increase significantly. While at present we have a very good working relationship with our EU customers, this business would clearly be threatened if we leave the EU, as we would no longer have the level playing field that the EU enshrines in law. Andrew Baker, Managing Director at Baker Consultants, says: “We cannot risk losing our European customers, so we are already investigating moving our business to an EU country should the UK vote to leave the EU”.

Construction begins at our latest European project, Gode Wind 1 and 2 offshore windfarm

Construction begins at our latest European project, Gode Wind 1 and 2 offshore windfarm

The benefits of EU membership for the environment must not be underestimated either. Much of the UK’s environmental legislation has its roots in EU Directives. Leaving the EU would throw this environmental legislation into disarray, potentially leading to years of legal wrangling while the UK decides what legislation should be kept and what should be dropped.

Andrew says: “We should always remember that all Directives are implemented through UK domestic legislation. The law is never perfect, but I am of the opinion that the majority of the problems we have are to do with the way the UK has implemented the Directives, not with the Directives per se.”

Andrew Baker and Baker Consultants will be active in the campaign to stay in the EU. “We must not ignore the serious threat that leaving the EU will pose to both UK businesses and environmental protection”, said Andrew.

We have sponsored one of our clients,  Commercial Estates Group, (CEG Harrogate)  in a Bed Race to to raise money for Saint Michael’s Hospice of Harrogate.

The race was on Saturday 14th June and involved  pushing the bed around a 2-mile course (including a river crossing!) competing against 89 other teams in front of a 20,000 crowd.

The race also had a theme which was “Children’s TV & Film”.  CEG Harrogate chose “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and  paraded the streets of Knaresborough with their bed (transformed into a giant Wonka Bar) dressed as Oompa Loompas complete with green wigs and orange faces, before competing in the race itself.  

The picture below, courtesy of CEG,  shows the team in training.

 

 

Photo Credit to CEG Harrogate

Photo Credit to CEG Harrogate

 

 

Baker Consultants has recently been awarded ISO certification for ISO 9001 and 14001. Ever since its inception five years ago our willingness to innovate has been applied to our business systems as well as our technical output. This has now been formally recognised through the implementation of the ISO framework across the business.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director said, “Achieving ISO was the logical next step for us. With an increasing number of projects for multi-national clients we wanted to be able to show the outside world that our business systems meet recognised, international standards.”

Marie Jennings, Baker Consultants’ Office Manager commented “We built our ISO around the business (rather than the other way round) and it is therefore integral to the way we run the business and supports our ability to be flexible and responsive to clients needs.”

This achievement coincides with a 25% increase in in-house consultants and the reporting of an estimated year on year growth in turnover for 107% in the year ending February 2014.

 

Baker Consultants has become a member of two organisations this month, INNSA (Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association) and the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

INNSA is the industry body for companies involved in controlling and eradicating invasive non-native species in the UK and the Freshwater Habitats Trust, based at Oxford Brookes University, is the only national freshwater charity that works for the protection of freshwater wildlife in all small water bodies, from ponds, to rivers, ditches, streams, and lakes.

Membership of such organisations can help in useful research and campaigning on issues affecting our environment. For more information on our services in these areas, freshwater or invasive species survey and consultancy, please contact survey@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Please click here for more information on each of the organisations:

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Freshwater Habitats Trust Logo

 

It feels like the right thing to do to put something back from the success of Baker Consultants, so each year we donate to a charity or a project somehow connected with our locality or the ecology industry. Fresh clean water, a basic amenity for us but a precious resource nonetheless and scarce in many parts of the world seemed an appropriate cause.

We have chosen to donate to Aquabox a charity run by the Rotary Club of Wirksworth.

Aquabox was set up to assist relief agencies in disaster areas to supply safe drinking water from the existing supplies of local often contaminated water.

We chose to sponsor the AquaFilter Community box, which is a system capable of generating up to 500,000 litres of drinking water from the local contaminated water sources. This is enough basic drinking water for 100 families of 6 (600 people) for well over a year and half; over 500 tonnes of drinking water.

Aquabox

 

If you would like more information on Aquabox please click here

 

We are seeking an experienced senior ecologist to join our growing terrestrial team. If you have over five years consultancy experience we’d like to hear from you.

Based in Cromford on the edge of the peak district we offer excellent working conditions, interesting and varied project work and commitment to training and career development. Baker Consultants has a deserved reputation for innovation and we are seeking people who will bring enthusiasm and creative thinking to our team and our clients.

Contact Andrew Baker on 07590 122969 for an informal chat or email your application with cv to jobs@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Are you a brilliant birder? Are you ambitious, motivated and looking for a career path that will establish you as a national expert in your chosen field ? If so, we would like to hear from you.
With an increasing workload in renewable energy and other sectors, Baker Consultants is looking for an ornithologist to join our team in Derbyshire. Read more

I had thought that 2011 would be a year of consolidation however it turned out to be one of continued expansion and forward planning. Not only did our client base increase along with turnover but we also expanded the in-house team with Carlos Abrahams joining us as Technical Director.

During 2011 we have continued to lead the industry in the practical development of bioacoustic survey techniques. Our bat specialist Paul Howden-Leach has become recognised as the UK expert in full spectrum analysis of bat recordings. While this is the technical stuff that rarely concerns our clients it means that the data collected is not only efficiently processed but it is also highly defensible in the public inquiry arena. We are now being used by other ecological consultancies to analyse the data they have collected.

The work on bioacoustics continues and we will be announcing the funding of a major research project into the use of full-spectrum sound recording for bird surveys early in the new year.

Looking forward to 2012 we are anticipating a very exciting year. With a planned expansion to the scope of Baker Consultants work, we have made two significant appointments who will lead the consultancy into an entirely new area of work and expand our geographical coverage. Keep an eye on the blog for more info’.

In 2011 we continued with our philosophy of ‘making a difference’ whether it is to our clients, our staff or the ecological profession. 2012 promises to be even more exciting.

Baker Consultants is hosting a seminar at DLA Piper Manchester on Wednesday 28th September.

The seminar addresses ecological constraints to development and how to
overcome the legal hurdles. If you are a planner, planning consultant,
developer or ecologist, whether for a commercial organisation or local
authority, you are welcome to attend.

Ecological issues often cost developers time and money. Whether due to great crested newts, bats, water voles or SSSIs/European designated sites, developers find themselves dealing with legal hurdles which are often difficult to overcome. Recent case law has highlighted the pitfalls and the need to get your strategy right.

Date:            WEDNESDAY 28th September
Time:            4-5.30pm
Venue:         101 Barbiroli Square, Manchester
Booking:       amy.mallett@dlapiper.com

The seminar will be led by Penny Simpson, Associate at DLA Piper UK LLP whose specialist area is in providing legal advice on “natural environment” issues to a wide range of clients including developers, industrial operators, local authorities and public interest groups and Andrew Baker, director of Baker Consultants, ecologist and expert witness.

The seminar is free and can contribute to CPD hours.

Free G&T and a lakeside view!

Fennview Lodge in Doddington, Cambridgeshire is a favoured haunt of tired birders. We were told a lovely story about one of our team arriving apologetically late after a particularly hectic survey day all over the Fens and as her car crunched up the gravel drive, she was greeted by a freshly poured G&T. You can’t get better service than that!

The four star B&B can be found at: www.fennviewlodge.co.uk