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

Planning and Design Group logo

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

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

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

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

There are currently:

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

Wetland by Carlos Abrahams, Technical Director

The Ramsar Convention: mission

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more

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

Gladman Developments Ltd has won a planning appeal inquiry for a residential development at Coalville, Leicestershire. The development of 180 new homes was initially refused by North West Leicestershire District Council in November 2014 and was subsequently examined at a public inquiry a year later. Baker Consultants provided Gladman with ecological advice throughout the planning process, carrying out comprehensive surveys and negotiating with the Local Planning Authority.

Prior to the inquiry, Baker Consultants gained agreement with the local authority ecologist that any ecological impacts could be fully mitigated, and wildlife issues were not, therefore, a reason for the initial planning refusal. Third parties, however, maintained ecological objections and Baker Consultants’ Managing Director, Andrew Baker, was called to give evidence to the inquiry. In addressing the ecological objections, the inspector stated in his report that “these matters were addressed comprehensively in the evidence of the Appellant [Gladman]”.

Andrew Baker said: “We are very pleased to be part of Gladman’s inquiry team and contribute to the successful outcome of this project.”

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, provided evidence at the planning appeal

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, provided evidence at the planning appeal

About Baker Consultants

For more information on Baker Consultants’ ecological services, visit our terrestrial ecology page.

To read more about Andrew’s experience of public inquiries and expert witness, click here.

British reptiles are protected by law and their presence on a development site can have implications for construction projects in a range of sectors, including house-building, infrastructure and renewable energy. Our experienced ecology consultants have the knowledge, expertise and licenses to identify whether reptiles are present and, if necessary, arrange mitigation procedures to allow the development to proceed and meet all legal requirements.

Ecologists Steve Docker and Courtenay Holden were lucky to photograph the moment a juvenile grass snake (one of the UK's six reptile species) was uncovered during a reptile survey

Ecologists Steve Docker and Courtenay Holden were lucky to photograph the moment a juvenile grass snake (one of the UK’s six reptile species) was uncovered during a reptile survey

All British reptiles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the CRoW Act 2000) and listed as Species of Principal Importance under the provisions of the NERC Act 2006. Grass snake, slow worm, common lizard and adder are protected against intentional killing, injury and against sale; whilst the rarer smooth snake and sand lizard are also protected against disturbance whilst occupying a ‘place used for shelter or protection’ and the destruction of such places. In addition, smooth snake and sand lizard are protected under the Habitats Regulations 2010, making them European Protected Species. Mitigating the impact of developments on reptiles is, therefore, crucial.

For more information on how we carry out reptile surveys and mitigate the impact of developments on reptiles for our clients, visit our reptile survey page.

Since 2011, we have conducted detailed bird surveys and assessment to support a proposed development site in East Yorkshire on behalf of Associated British Ports. Our regular monitoring and consistently applied, robust methodology enabled us to amass a dataset that was used to fully assess the impacts of a potential development. This culminated in planning consent being granted and the creation of an impact avoidance set, which Baker Consultants is now monitoring.

Ecologist Steve Docker carrying out a bird survey

Ecologist Steve Docker carrying out a bird survey

Our expertise was required, as the development site is in close proximity to the Humber Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA), designated for its important populations of wintering species such as bar-tailed godwit and golden plover and migratory species such as knot and dunlin. Important populations of avocet, marsh harrier, little tern and bittern are also supported in the breeding season.

Baker Consultants has been carrying out surveys of migratory and wintering bird species at the development site. To ensure use of methods suitable for the specific requirements of the assessment, the survey protocol was designed as an adaptation of the British Trust for Ornithology high tide counts bird survey.

Laura Morrish, Projects Manager at Associated British Ports said: “Baker Consultants has been undertaking regular bird surveys for approximately five years across a wide area of ABP owned land in Hull in order to provide baseline data information for Environmental Impact Assessments and to allow for the preparation of annual monitoring reports of impact avoidance sites.  We have developed an excellent working relationship with the team.”

Our expertise

Baker Consultants have significant in-house expertise in the full range of bird surveys. For more information on our bird survey expertise read our pages on breeding bird surveyswetland bird surveys and winter bird surveys.

 

Read our full Associated British Ports case study here.

Trees provide an essential resource for all our legally protected bat species. They provide foraging and commuting habitat and shelter, with almost all of our resident bat species known to roost in trees; indeed some almost exclusively.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing is therefore a very useful survey tool for a Natural England licensed bat ecologist, enabling them to undertake assessments of potential roost features within trees at height and complimenting other survey approaches, such as preliminary assessments from the ground and nocturnal surveys. Potential roost features might consist of a split, cavity, hollow, callus roll (a tree’s response to a wound) or loose bark in or around a branch or trunk of a tree.

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Last week, two of our licensed bat ecologists, Matt Cook and Jake Robinson, successfully acquired their Level 2 City & Guilds NPTC awards in tree climbing and aerial rescue, formerly the CS38 ‘ticket’. This means that Matt and Jake are now professionally trained and certified to safely access and work in trees by rope and harness, and also carry out an emergency rescue at height if necessary. Our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, has also been certified and undertaking tree surveys at height for bats for several years.

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Following the successful completion of his course, Matt said:

“Although I’ve assessed plenty of trees from the ground during my time as a bat ecologist, and been up on plenty of roofs and ladders during inspections and whilst working onsite, I don’t think I’d been more than a few feet up a tree since I was a teenager. I’d also never done any proper climbing before – assuming a day at ‘Go-Ape’ doesn’t count!

There was therefore a lot to take in on the first couple of days of the course and I’ll admit I was quite cautious about putting my life in the hands of the knots I was tying and remembering what to do when and where when dangling twenty feet off a branch. At least I felt ok working at height, as I can imagine this is what puts many people off this kind of work. It was surprisingly tiring for the first couple of days, as several people had warned me; I’m fairly fit and enjoy running, walking, cycling and playing football, but all of these only really use your legs!

As the course progressed though, I became more competent and my confidence grew as I improved my overall technique. However, I fully expect to be honing my skills continuously each time I head up a tree, which are of course all highly variable. Overall, I was really pleased to have successfully passed the course and am looking forward to undertaking some surveys and providing subsequent advice”.

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Indeed Matt and Jake have already been assisting an experienced ‘tree climber’ with bat surveys of trees at height this week. Their training in this specialist survey skill has therefore already directly benefitted one of our valued clients.

Bat surveys and tree climbing

Usefully, and unlike many surveys for bats and other fauna, surveying trees at height for bats can be undertaken at any time of year. This is because bats can potentially use trees all year round to roost and also hibernate. Best practice would always be to undertake a preliminary assessment of a tree from the ground for its potential to support bat roosts prior to any felling or significant pruning or coppicing etc. If a potential roost feature is identified, and the presence or likely absence of bats cannot adequately be determined from below, further surveys of this potential roost feature should be undertaken. This might include a suite of nocturnal surveys, but may also or alternatively include an assessment of this potential roost feature at height i.e. tree climbing.

Baker Consultants can offer all of the above ecological assessment services with regard to bats, so please contact us for a discussion about your project or visit our Bat Survey page for further information.

 

 

 

 

October saw the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, which applies primarily to England, introduced to the House of Commons. Through the Bill, the government aims to build more homes that people can afford, give more people the chance to own their own home, and improve the way housing is managed.

Housing development masterplan

Housing development masterplan

The Bill

The Housing and Planning Bill includes a series of reforms to ensure the planning system does not add unnecessary obstacles to the delivery of new homes.

Items of note within the Bill include:

  • taking forward the government’s commitment to require local authorities to manage their housing assets more efficiently
  • enabling local planning authorities or neighbourhood groups to grant planning permission in principle for housing sites at the point a site is allocated in an adopted local/neighbourhood plan document or local brownfield register
  • streamlining the planning process
  • allowing developers to include an element of housing as part of their application for consent for a nationally significant infrastructure project
  • reducing the time for the neighbourhood planning process to be completed
  • allowing the communities secretary to prepare or revise a development plan or direct a council on how to proceed in certain circumstances
  • allowing the communities secretary to grant unconditional permission in principle directly (or provide for local authorities to grant it) to development proposals meeting certain criteria.

Brownfield sites

The Bill allows for Local Development Orders (LDO) to be made on all suitable brownfield sites listed on a statutory register, in order to simplify and promote their development. The LDO brownfield sites process will give ‘automatic’ permission for housing schemes, and RIBA and the Planning Officers’ Society have voiced concerns over this in terms of the quality of developments and the appropriateness of some sites that might be included.

One of the key concerns for nature conservation arising from the Bill (raised by bodies such as the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts) also relates to the Bill’s approach to brownfield land. While, in principle, this may seem better than development of greenfield sites, in ecological terms this may not always be the case. Brownfield sites can often contain significant ecological interest, which might outweigh, for example, an agriculturally improved greenfield site.

However, as one of its Core Planning Principles the National Planning Policy Framework aims to “encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value” (our emphasis). For further information,Wildlife and Countryside Link has produced guidance on this issue, available here.

In conclusion

Although we support the general principle of developing brownfield sites over greenfield, appropriate ecological assessment must still be a key part of the planning decision in bringing these sites forwards. At the moment it is not clear how technical details such as flood risk, site contamination, heritage, access and ecology would be considered as part of the LDO process. This is potentially a large stumbling block, which might render sites that are listed on the brownfield register unviable for developers and would likely still require Environmental Impact Assessments for larger schemes.

The environmental profession is starting to contemplate the implications of the UK’s potential exit from the European Union. ‘Brexit’, as it is termed, 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 the UK’s exit from the EU 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, Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Baker Consultants’ Managing Director, Andrew Baker, is one of the UK’s experts in nature conservation law and an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association’s nature conservation working group. The working group has been assessing the potential impact of Brexit on nature conservation, and the group’s convenor Wyn Jones has assessed the implications in a recent paper, which is included in full below.

Golden Plovers in flight by J R Pender. Golden Plovers are one of the species that sites can be designated for under the Birds Directive

Golden Plovers in flight by J R Pender. Golden Plovers are one of the species that sites can be designated for under the Birds Directive

Andrew has been invited to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity (APPGB) on 17th November to discuss the ongoing review of the Habitat and Birds Directives. Read more about the meeting here.

Implications of the UK leaving the European Union – nature conservation

Introduction

Members of the UKELA nature conservation working party have considered this issue for some time. However, we still do not have a clear picture of how, should the UK leave the European Union, the process would be undertaken and the time frame for such a process. The potential impacts on legislation for and affecting wildlife are considerable. Given the uncertainties all that are possible is to list the potential issues. The following is far from complete but provides an indication of the range of issues and complexities to be addressed.

Context

The process to withdraw from the European Union is set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. (This amends the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (Rome).) Article 50 provides for a 2 year period to negotiate the withdrawal which includes addressing fiscal issues, termination of contracts etc.. The period may be extended with the agreement of all remaining Member States. No country has previously withdrawn from the European Union and therefore the process is untested.

The situation is further complicated by devolution with the respective governments likely to adopt different approaches to the legal framework within their competency, post UK exit from the EU.

In addition the Crown Dependency of Gibraltar is a part of the UK’s territory within the EU and the Sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekalia on Cyprus under the terms of Treaty of Independence in 1960 the base areas must mirror Cypriot legislation. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004.

In terms of national legislation most EU legislation is transposed in the main by means of secondary legislation derived from the European Communities Act 1972, but not all. The repeal of the Act could be undertaken quickly. However, given the considerable amount of secondary legislation it is likely to take some time to consider the full consequences of repeal. It is essential that all such secondary measures remain in force unless and until specifically repealed. Many reflect protective measures which either originated, or would have been undertaken, in the UK even if it had not been a member of the EU. In the period leading up to the referendum and post ‘No vote’, EU derived legislation will be difficult to implement and enforce. Without a clear and detailed exit strategy there is likely to be confusion if not chaos.

It is ironic that the UK holds the presidency of the EU in the second half of 2017.

Legislation for and affecting wildlife

The key wildlife Directives are the EC Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) (codified 2009/147/ EC) and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). The former is transposed by means of the Habitats Regulations and Part I Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 as amended, the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 as amended. The latter is transposed by means of Habitats Regulations.

Other critical directives are the Environmental Impacts Directive (2011/92/EU as amended by 2014/52/EU)) and the Strategic Environmental Directive (2001/42/EC) and Environmental Information Directive (2003/4/EC) which are transposed into national legislation by means of Regulations.

Overlapping complementary directives are the Water Framework Directive (92/43/EEC), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) and the Environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/EC).

Some issues and / or questions

European sites

Most terrestrial sites have been notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (Areas of Special Scientific Interest in Northern Ireland (ASSI)) and will be afforded a measure of protection but not as robust as that provided by the Habitats Directive. The description of such sites as ‘European’ may need to be changed to a term such as ‘International’ but the level of protection should continue. The implications for land transfer and registration of any substantive changes need to be addressed.

Management agreements

The implications for management agreements will need to be considered. The European interest features will be of national importance and therefore the agreement could be re-assigned to Section 15 Countryside Act 1968 to protect and manage SSSIs. Such an arrangement would need to be formalised through appropriate legislation.

Notice and consents

Consents given by the statutory nature conservation bodies under the Regulations could be revoked or re-assigned to the underpinning SSSI / ASSI legislation where possible?

Special nature conservation orders

Orders made by the Secretary of State would ultimately need to be renamed as would any measures made in association with individual orders. All relevant owners and occupiers would need to be given notice of the changes.

Byelaws

I am not aware of byelaws being made by means of the Regulations but if any are in force they would need to be renamed and appropriate notices etc. made to publicise changes.

European marine sites

European marine sites (SPAs and SACs) are not necessarily underpinned by national legislation provided by the declaration as Marine Nature Reserves at Lundy, Skomer and Strangford Lough and / or designation as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. However, those European sites not already MCZs could be so designated with minimum administrative burden?

Protection of European species

European protected species listed in the Schedules to the Regulations are also listed in the relevant Schedules of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended. In Northern Ireland and Scotland European protected species are only listed in the Regulations. This anomaly would need to be addressed.

The protection afforded by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (Part 1) in the main mirrors the directives (intentional / reckless v deliberate). The one major difference is the strict liability offence under Article 12.1(d) Habitats Directive which could be incorporated into domestic law.

Protection would be substantially weakened if there were a loss of the tests of no alternatives and action not detrimental to the maintenance of the population(s) of species at favourable conservation status (Article 16).

The power under the Regulations to issue licences for preserving public health and safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest including those of a social or economic nature is not available under national legislation.

Assessment of plans and projects

It would be important to ensure that where plans and projects have been carried out the compensation secured and the relevant agreements underpinning the measures are retained.

It is important to ensure that where plans and projects have been reviewed under Regulations and amended or revoked, the reviews and consequent changes are not nullified. A large exercise was carried out by the nature conservation bodies and the then Environment Agency / SEPA to review consents.

Conclusions

We have to accept that BREXIT may occur and not refrain from suggesting measures that might minimize harm so as to maximise the perceived harm of BREXIT as an argument against it.

All domestic secondary transposing measures should remain in force unless and until specifically repealed.

The need for owners and occupiers consent for reclassification of conditions and agreements under domestic legislation should be avoided.

All the above are likely to place considerable administrative burden on governments and their agencies and will have practical implications as to the management and protection of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora.

and finally …

to quote Donald Rumsfeld

‘There are known knows. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say that there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknowns unknowns. These are things we don’t know we don’t know.’

We are at the known unknowns’ stage, gathering information and listing issues to be addressed. We have no idea of the consequences and of the unknown unknowns. It will be a perilous and uncertain time for nature conservation in the UK.

 

Wyn Jones

Convenor, nature conservation working party

26th October 2015.

 

We’re pleased to announce that one of our senior ecologists, Mark Woods, is now a certified Chartered Ecologist.

Mark has been a practicing ecologist for over 25 years. His career to date has included managing nature reserves, conservation in the voluntary sector, consultancy and lecturing. Mark has made a significant contribution to the ecology sector by sharing his knowledge through lecturing at further and higher education levels, including postgraduates, and training adults in practical countryside management and forestry skills. He has been the joint Botanical Recorder (BSBI) for Nottinghamshire for several years.

Mark Woods, pictured far left at a Baker Consultants away day, has just received Chartered Ecologist status

Mark Woods, pictured far left at a Baker Consultants away day, has just received Chartered Ecologist status

Receiving chartered status from CIEEM is a prestigious award. Being accepted to join the Register of Chartered Ecologists is in recognition of an ecologist who has effectively applied a knowledge and understanding of ecology to the highest standards of practice.

As part of the Thorpe Park development in Leeds, we are responsible for translocation and mitigation of great crested newts. Between mid-September and the end of October, we translocated over 2,000 amphibians, representing only a third of the trapping we are due to carry out! Here Katie Watson, our Assistant Ecologist, tells us more about the project that has seen our ecologists monitoring and trapping amphibians along five kilometres of newt fencing.

Great crested newt translocation and mitigation

A daily rota of checking newt traps along the installed newt fencing on site has led to our ecologists translocating 120 great crested newts (which are a protected species) as well as 996 smooth newts, 1,189 toads and 119 frogs from the development area at Thorpe Park, Leeds. So far, a third of the trapping has been completed, with a further third likely to be completed over the next week.

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

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

Translocation is essential, as great crested newts are Britain’s largest and most threatened newt, protected under the EU Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). By following Natural England’s mitigation guidance, we aim to maintain and enhance the population by ensuring high quality translocation habitat as well as maintaining strict welfare standards.

Translocation only forms one part of the mitigation measures for great crested newts at Thorpe Park, as pond creation in the translocation area has also been a vital aspect of the project in terms of ecology. The ponds have central open areas for mating displays, encircled by shallow water margins, which are to be planted with translocated vegetation from the marshland habitat at the development site. Spoil has been used to sculpt the terrestrial habitat alongside the water’s edge to create raised earth banks. Woodland and grassland mosaics have also been created using wildflower seedlings and saplings.

Katie Watson, Assistant Ecologist, checking newt traps at Thorpe Park. Photo by Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

Katie Watson, Assistant Ecologist, checking newt traps at Thorpe Park. Photo by Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

During the initial great crested newt surveys a number of surveying techniques were used including egg search, torchlight surveys and bottle trapping. Since then, eDNA sampling is being used to detect microscopic fragments of DNA biomarkers belonging to great crested newts within waterbodies. This method can be used to determine species occupancy in ponds (i.e. presence/absence) and has the potential advantage of increasing survey efficiency.

About Thorpe Park

Thorpe Park is a business park development in Leeds, currently accommodating 4,500 office workers at several organisations. Current development will expand the facilities for staff on the Park to include a hotel, restaurants and a coffee shop, as well as retail and health & fitness facilities.

With 44% of dedicated green space, Thorpe Park will ultimately have around 7,000 trees, 20,000 shrubs and hedges, 50,000 flower bulbs and 15,000 aquatic plants.

About Baker Consultants

Baker Consultants are experienced in a full range of protected species surveys and mitigation measures, including great crested newts. To maintain the high professional standards expected by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and our clients, we strictly follow Natural England’s guidelines. For more information, visit our Terrestrial Ecology home page or go directly to our Great Crested Newt Surveys page.

Andrew Baker, our Managing Director, has been invited to speak at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity (APPGB); a forum for informed discussion between cross-party parliamentarians, senior policy makers, industry leaders and environmental organisations on biodiversity issues. He will share the stage with Stanley Johnson, formerly of the European Commission and European Parliament, and the RSPB’s Kate Jennings.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

Andrew Baker, Managing Director

The meeting will discuss the ongoing review of the European Commission’s Habitat and Birds Directives, which form the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy. The Habitats Directive protects over 1,000 animal and plant species and over 200 habitat types of European importance. The Habitats Directive has been in place since 1992 and the Birds Directive since 2009, when it replaced the 1979 directive on the conservation of wild birds.

This takes place in the context of the ongoing ‘fitness check’ of the Habitats Directive and also under the shadow of the UK’s referendum on UK membership of the European Community. Andrew has been asked to speak to represent the views of ecology professionals operating in the commercial sector.

The meeting is scheduled for 5pm November 17th at Westminster. If you wish to attend, please contact Andrew Callender, Secretariat APPG Biodiversity.

About the speakers

Andrew Baker is an ecologist and Managing Director of Baker Consultants and Baker Consultants Marine. He has a particular interest in nature conservation law and has been an active member of the UK Environmental Law Association for over 10 years. He is a veteran of many public inquiries and has given evidence on biodiversity issues to parliamentary select committees. He is familiar with the sharp end of the Directives and, while he is a staunch supporter of Europe, has often been critical of how the Directives are implemented in the UK.

Stanley Johnson is a well-known environmental professional, having held senior positions at the European Parliament and European Commission. He is a successful environmental writer, having published ten environmental books, and has won high profile environmental awards from the charities Greenpeace, RSPCA and, most recently, the RSPB. He has also been a trustee of several environmental organisations, such as Plantlife and the Earthwatch Institute. He is also the father of Boris Johnson!

Kate Jennings is Head of Site Conservation Policy at the RSPB, a position she has held since 2012. She previously worked as a Site Policy Officer, also for the RSPB, and as Senior Officer and Site Designation Officer for Natural England. She is also Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group, which represents 100 voluntary organisations across the UK.

Five of our ecologists contributed to a Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) research project that featured on The One Show on BBC1 as part of the film Bats Without Borders by Icon Films! Our Senior Ecologist Matt Cook led the project for Nottinghamshire and Rutland Water and four of our other ecologists, Courtenay HoldenKatie Watson, Rich Hall and Kelly Clark have also been involved.

Background to the project

After a Nathusius’ pipistrelle was found to have migrated from Great Britain to the Dutch coast in 2013, scientists’ previously held assumption that British bats were unable to migrate across the North Sea was challenged. Bats Without Borders set out to find out whether some of the UK’s bats were migratory and if it was possible for a bat weighing only seven grams to cross the English Channel or the North Sea.

Bats Without Borders poster

Bats Without Borders poster

Several bat groups were involved in the Bat Conservation Trust and University of Exeter study, including Nottinghamshire Bat Group, for which Matt is project co-ordinator. Matt led the project for Nottinghamshire and Rutland Water, overseeing the catching of 46 Nathusius’ pipistrelles so far. These bats have all been adult males, with five recaptures from within Nottinghamshire and at Rutland Water, one of which has actually ‘migrated’ over 10km along the River Trent. The project group hope to catch a breeding female, which they hope to radio-track back to a roost. This would be an important piece of research, as there are currently no known active roosts on mainland Great Britain. Two to three more maternity roosts were discovered this summer, but none of any notable numbers.

About Nathusius’ pipistrelles

The Nathusius’ pipistrelles are associated with freshwater habitats, mainly large water bodies, and their diet largely consists of medium-sized flying insects such as aquatic flies, midges (particularly non-biting midges), mosquitoes and caddis flies. They feed by aerial hawking, meaning they pursue and catch their prey in flight. In comparison to other pipistrelles, they typically fly higher, faster and further, and have distinctive social and advertisement calls. They typically weigh between six and 13 grams.

Nathusius' pipistrelles. Photos by Jon Russ

Nathusius’ pipistrelles. Photos by Jon Russ

Distribution-wise, Nathusius’ pipistrelles occur across mainland Europe, generally migrating north-east to south-west in autumn. They were first recorded in the UK in the 1940s in Shetland and were considered only a migrant visitor to the UK until the 1990s, when a small number of mating and maternity colonies were found. Overall, they are considered widespread, although uncommon. Less than ten mainland Great Britain maternity roosts have been recorded and none have been found to be active since 2012 (the last roost was in Kent). This means there are no major hibernation sites.

There is still much that is unknown about Nathusius’ pipistrelles in the UK, including the nature of their movements in and out of the UK, their migration routes and origins, their population status and their distribution. We hope that the research Matt, Courtenay and Katie have been involved in provides an important stepping-stone to better understanding the behaviour of this fascinating species.

The full results from the stable isotope analysis of the discreet fur samples taken from the bats caught in 2014 are due very soon. However, the preliminary results suggest that most of the Nathusius’ pipistrelles are likely to have moved quite significant distances.

Our latest in-house training course, run by Senior Ecologist Matt Cook (BSc (Hons) MSc MCIEEM), covered advanced bat survey techniques including using harp traps and acoustic lures.

After an initial training session on advanced bat surveys including Natural England class licensing back at the office, our terrestrial colleagues set off into the wilds of Derbyshire (or Carsington Water, as it is popularly called) for some field training in the use of harp-traps and acoustic lures.

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

This latest in-house training was a very informative and hands-on session, with five different species of bat caught under licence: Daubenton’s bat, whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, brown long-eared bat and soprano pipistrelle. This allowed for close examination of common bat identification features such as size, ears and tragus, and the presence or absence of a post-calcarial lobe. Being able to identify a bat in the hand is important for our ecologists working with these protected species.

Beyond this, there are other benefits that ‘advanced’ survey techniques can bring to our clients and their projects; for example:

  • These techniques can assess where key flight-lines and bat activity hotspots are on a site, ensuring that mitigation measures are evidence-based;
  • They can remove many of the limitations of bat detectors, especially for quiet and cryptic species, by allowing identification of species, sex and an assessment of breeding status;
  • They can often be more cost effective than ‘traditional’ alternatives, as they can reduce the amount of time needed in the field; and,
  • Overall, important information about bat assemblages on a site can be gathered to help maintain the Favourable Conservation Status of these European Protected Species.

Additionally, development of these skills sets us apart from other consultancies, as very few have the in-house expertise to conduct these types of surveys.

whiskered Brandt's bats in the hand, caught during training at Carsington by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

Whiskered and Brandt’s bats in the hand, caught during training at Carsington by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

About Baker Consultants

At Baker Consultants, we regularly run in-house training sessions to make sure our colleagues continue to develop throughout their careers, encouraging colleagues to share their specific expertise with others. This internal training helps to maintain the high professional standards expected by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and our clients.

We are experienced in the full range of bat surveys. For more information, visit our Bat Surveys page and read our Elvaston Castle case study.

About Matt Cook

Matt is an experienced bat ecologist, holding Class licenses 1 to 4, and with a range of survey and reporting experience. Matt’s passion for all things bat-related extends outside work, where he has been actively involved with local bat conservation groups since 2008. Matt has also been coordinating the Bat Conservation Trust National Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Project in the region for the last two years (read more about this here).

About bats

There are 17 resident breeding species of bat in the UK and all bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law. Bats’ foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system. Bats can typically be surveyed between April and October using a variety of different survey methods. For more on bats, visit our Bat Surveys page.

A new method for translocating rare waxcap fungi developed by our Principal Ecologist Barry Wright could offer considerable cost savings for construction and development projects and has recently been featured in both British Wildlife and In Practice magazines.

Rather than moving whole turves in order to translocate the waxcap fungi affected by the construction of a link road, Barry used an ultra-low impact, low-cost method of spore translocation. This potentially represents a new, more efficient method of mitigating the impact of a range of developments on ecologically important grassland.

The translocation method developed by Barry had a significant cost saving over more traditional turf moving and achieved the client’s aim of attempting translocation while accommodating the landowner’s requirements.

Below is a summarised version of the full case study, versions of which featured in British Wildlife and In Practice.

Pink Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)

Pink Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)

The project

During the early stages of construction of the Heysham to M6 link road scheme near Lancaster by Lancashire County Council, the pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis; listed, at the time, as a British Red Data List species (Ing 1992)) was discovered on site. To mitigate the issue, it was proposed to translocate all waxcap species impacted by the development to a nearby mitigation area acquired by management agreement. Our Principal Ecologist Barry Wright, consulting ecologist for the project developer ADAS at the time, was tasked with translocating the waxcaps.

Waxcaps

Grasslands that support fungi are under threat nationally and internationally from agricultural improvements. Waxcap fungi (the genus Hygrocybe) are a colourful group of grassland fungi that are very noticeable in grasslands in the autumn when they fruit. Waxcaps are largely confined to growing in grassland, generally in pasture where the turf is kept short by grazing or areas that are mown such as golf courses and church burial grounds. Some UK waxcap species are regarded as rare and listed as Species of Principal Importance (formerly UK Biodiversity Action Plan (or BAP) species).

Simplified waxcap lifecycle and fungal mycelia diagram by Anne Wright

Simplified waxcap lifecycle and fungal mycelia diagram by Anne Wright

Although the pink waxcap was later removed from the Red List, Lancashire County Council honoured the translocation attempt. During a public inquiry in 2007, it had been agreed that waxcap-rich meadows were biologically important and worth protecting or mitigating for potential adverse impacts.

Challenges for waxcap translocation

The first challenge was to find a suitable translocation method for the landowners’ requirements, as the mitigation land was organically farmed and the owner reluctant to allow access to the potentially damaging machinery necessary for turve translocation. This led Barry to develop his unique translocation method using spores, which offered an ultra-low impact solution that satisfied both the council and the landowner.

The other challenge was that, to date, there was no proven track record of success even for the standard waxcap translocation method using turves containing waxcaps. As underground mycelia (the vegetative part of a fungus) can take over twenty years to reappear after disturbances (Griffith et al 2004) to the extent that they can once again produce fruiting bodies (i.e. waxcaps), proving success of translocation can be difficult.

Barry proposed the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) testing to analyse soil samples from the area that received the translocation of spores and look for the presence of waxcap DNA in order to determine success of translocation prior to the production of fruiting bodies.

The translocation

Previous surveys had identified locations within the management agreement mitigation area with similar vegetation to the waxcap-rich site that would be lost, but where there had been no evidence of fruiting waxcaps found since surveys began in 2003. It was believed that these vacant areas potentially did not contain waxcaps due to wind dispersal being restricted by waxcaps’ tendency to nestle in the grass. Therefore, artificially moving fertile caps into these vacant areas and allowing spores to be shed directly into the receptor areas could theoretically have a good probability of creating new waxcap colonies, particularly given vegetation similarities between the sites.

Waxcaps develop caps mainly during the autumn, so collections were made between 19 September (before the first caps emerged) and 4 December (when the number of caps was very low due to the cold weather). This was timed to ensure that early species and specimens were not missed. The candidate donor areas were walked in a zig-zag pattern with each leg approximately five metres from the previous and repeated weekly using a GPS track back function.

The location of each donor cap or caps (often small colonies of five to twenty caps were found close together) was recorded as a waypoint on a GPS device and the number of caps and their species recorded. All sporulating (meaning those producing spores) fruiting caps of any waxcap species visible were collected and separated into species groups to allow representative numbers of each species collected to be apportioned to each receptor location.

A typical mixed collection of caps in a trug

A typical mixed collection of caps in a trug

 

Translocation was carried out by moving sporulating waxcaps to receptor sites, where they were placed gill-side down to allow them to shed their spores naturally into the receptor turf. Only two caps of pink waxcap were found and both were translocated.

The future

This translocation was carried out in autumn 2014, so success cannot yet be determined. However, the site will be monitored for the next 20 years of the management plan and funding for future eDNA analysis is hoped for to enable assessment of whether soil in the receptor sites contains waxcap DNA. Waxcaps can form new colonies from spores and, as high concentrations of spores were deposited into comparable receptor areas, the probability of success is believed to be high.

Barry Wright says: “Going forwards our aim is to eDNA barcode the donor and receptor areas as well as the remaining vacant areas that did not receive the ripe caps to compare waxcap presence. We hope to answer questions such as: Are the vacant areas truly vacant or did they already contain the waxcap species that were translocated? Have the spores deposited from the donor site germinated in the receptor sites, in which case can they be detected yet?

“This analysis will allow us to detect success or failure in advance of any colonies becoming established enough to produce fruiting bodies. While it is still too early make conclusions regarding the future potential of this novel approach to waxcap translocation, it is hoped that this technique could become an accepted approach in the future.”

Read the full case study here.

Why Baker Consultants

Innovation in ecology survey methods is part of Baker Consultants’ DNA and we are experienced in mitigation and translocation methods for a wide range of species, including waxcaps, reptiles, marine mammals and butterflies. Contact a member of our team today to discuss your project or explore our website for more information. Read more about our expertise in eDNA here.

References

Ing, B. (1992). A provisional red data list of British Fungi. The Mycologist 6: 124-128.

Griffith, G. W., Bratton, J. H. and Easton, G. (2004). Charismatic megafungi – the conservation of waxcap grasslands. British Wildlife 16 (1), pp. 31-43. Rotherwick, Hampshire: British Wildlife Publishing.

Baker Consultants, alongside MOLA and DSA Environment & Design, recently won the contract to produce a new Management Plan for Worsbrough Mill and Country Park.

Commissioned by Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) in collaboration with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC), the production of the Management Plan will guide a five-year management programme at Worsbrough Mill and Country Park and provide the foundations for a longer-term sustainable management programme for the site.

Worsbrough Mill is a 17th century working water mill producing flour, set in a 240 acre country park in Barnsley, both of which are accessible to visitors. The broadleaved woodlands and reservoir support a rich variety of wildlife and the site is a popular visitor attraction offering a wide range of recreational activities.

Worsbrough Mill, 17th century working water mill and country park

Worsbrough Mill, 17th century working water mill and country park

Baker Consultants, MOLA and DSA Environment & Design have formed a highly skilled project team to produce a clear, practical and focused Management Plan for the site. The team includes ecology, heritage and landscape experts, all with considerable relevant project experience, including the preparation of management plans for nature conservation sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), heritage assets and parks.

Working alongside the partner organisations, the Consultancy Team will produce a clear and readable working document to provide day-to-day guidance for the management of the site on behalf of all stakeholder groups. The consensus of stakeholder groups is crucial to the success of the Management Plan and Baker Consultants’ modern approach will ensure the involvement of stakeholders and promote innovative ideas regarding management options, enabling DVLP to continue to achieve Green Flag Status.

Mark Woods, Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants said: “Worsbrough Mill is a highly valuable site in terms of ecology, recreation and heritage. Through this management plan, the key features that contribute to these values will be maintained and enhanced. This project represents an exciting opportunity to increase community involvement and preserve the economic, ecological and historical value of the site.”

Cows grazing at Worsbrough Mill

Cows grazing at Worsbrough Mill

As an international ecological consultancy, Baker Consultants specialise in innovative, positive ecology solutions that benefit people, nature and business. Baker Consultants are licensed for all protected species surveys and provide clients with a level of ecological survey appropriate for their project, interpreting legislation and policy on behalf of clients to ensure projects comply with all environmental requirements.

Read more about our past projects in our case studies.