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.

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