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Baker Consultants has been shortlisted for a CIEEM best practice award for Best Project Mitigation and we are looking forward to showcasing our work alongside industry colleagues at the CIEEM ceremony this month. The project has provided targeted mitigation in the form of specific habitat for the county scarce dingy skipper butterfly on a former colliery site in Nottinghamshire with support from Mike Slater (Warwickshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation Trust) on behalf of our client Welbeck Estates Ltd.

Most of our development projects take years to come to fruition as our clients often come to us pre-planning in order to assess their ecological constraints and involve ecology in their masterplanning. This award celebrates the results of the full suite of mitigation measures, restoration and follow-up monitoring typical of our long-term projects. This project has enabled us to implement methods developed by Butterfly Conservation Trust and prove their efficacy whilst significantly increasing the local abundance of dingy skipper.

If you have a site for regeneration or that requires ecological management for development or biodiversity net gain contact one of our team on 01629 593958.

 

Ecological survey requirements are well established in guidance that sets out timescale, frequency and survey methods, sometimes in lengthy detail. The JNCC, CIEEM, and Natural England publish guidance that has been developed alongside changes in policy and best practice. These methods can sometimes form part of a protected species licence application, so consistency is important. Developers engaging an ecologist to consult on and carry out the required surveys rightly expect to receive robust advice in line with statutory guidance.

However, another layer of policy exists where Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) set out the ecological survey requirements for the planning applications they receive. These expectations vary considerably between LPAs and sometimes do not match the standard national guidelines. Due to this variation there may be conflicts with the national guidance and geographical discrepancies in what surveys are required to validate a planning application. This is another aspect of planning that has become a ‘post-code lottery’.

These inconsistencies can have costly implications for developers who may commission surveys to meet LPA requirements, but then find that when external scrutiny is applied or protected species licensing is involved, additional surveys have to be done, potentially delaying the construction timetable or leading to legal challenge.

Communication between developers and LPAs is important, facilitated by a consultant ecologist, in defining the scope of works to be undertaken, and explaining what work is required and why. This will help to promote greater understanding of the differing roles and requirements of national and local guidance, and help steer a course between the two.

Baker Consultants will always recommend the most robust set of survey effort to ensure not only regulatory compliance and best practice, but also ensure that clients have a fully prepared planning application which stands up to public and legal scrutiny. The wider obligation of providing biodiversity net gain will be more easily met if the initial ecological assessments are robust.

The full article featured in CIEEM’s InPractice can be accessed by CIEEM members on its web site.

For more information on how this issue may affect your project or to request advice, please contact Carlos or another member of the team on 01629 593958 or via info@bakerconsultants.co.uk

 

Carlos Abrahams article on Data Information and Management in relation to bird bioacoustic surveys has been published in the December issue of In Practice.

Bioacoustic surveys can be used to capture useful and robust data on bird vocalisations to inform studies on avian distribution and ecology. However, currently there are no recognised standard methods for their use in the UK. This article sets out a draft protocol for testing and adoption, and invites feedback from CIEEM members to further develop good practice.

Below is an extract from the article:

 

To read the full article, or for further information please contact Carlos directly at c.abrahams@bakerconsultants.co.uk.

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.

Our principal ecologist, Barry Wright, recently led two field training workshops for the Yorkshire and Humberside branch of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Managment (CIEEM). Taking place near Wetherby at the begining of March, the workshops were devised to help CIEEM members to identify tree and shrub species in winter, including studying twigs from 19 different species, and learn the methods available for surveying hedgerows.

As well as describing existing survey methods, Barry also gave a demonstration of his own survey method, HEDGES (Hedgerow Ecological Description, Grading and Evaluation System). This is based on Barry’s own research, can be tailored to individual project needs and enables more hedgerow information to be gathered. As well as being a principal ecologist at Baker Consultants, Barry is currently completing his research for a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University in the study of hedgerows and the species that can indicate their origins and age.

Winter hedgerow

Winter hedgerow

An assessment of the ‘importance’ of a hedgerow under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 can be required at any time of year, but surveying hedgerows in winter can be a cold, wet and daunting task especially with no leaves in the trees and bushes to make identification easier. This increases the importance for ecologists in having skills in winter tree and shrub species identification. If ecological surveys miss hedgerow species due to ecologists being unable to correctly identify trees and shrubs during winter, this could lead to the removal of a hedgerow incorrectly deemed not to meet the minimum criteria of woody species presence.

Despite these problems, surveying hedgerows in winter has its benefits. Without leaves to get in the way, it is easier to see the structure of a hedge, such as evidence of laying, and ground flora is more clearly visible. This is beneficial, as woodland ground flora species like Bluebell, Dog’s Mercury and Lords-and-Ladies can add to the scoring for a hedgerow to be assessed as ‘important’ under the regulations. Ground flora species such as these and Ivy are often hidden under foliage in summer, unless there is vigorous growth emerging on the outside of a hedge.

Barry Wright, principal ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

Barry Wright, principal ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

Even if winter surveying of a hedgerow is not specifically required, carrying out a winter survey is still desirable, so as to complete the picture following a summer survey to record the frequency and abundance of trees and shrubs along the hedge.

Mark Woods, senior ecologist with Baker Consultants, has recently overseen the latest phase of a project to translocate species rich grassland and the dingy skipper butterfly, Erynnis tages, from a former colliery in Nottinghamshire. The project involved the creation of butterfly banks for this species and was undertaken in collaboration with the Butterfly Conservation Trust. Initial survey results show successful breeding of the dingy skipper in areas where translocation was undertaken in 2013.

A poster describing the project will be on display at the CIEEM Autumn conference in Edinburgh on 11th and 12th November 2014.  A copy of the poster will be available to download soon.

 

 

Carlos gets creative and sketches the key points from the CIEEM Annual Conference at Southampton in November.

Baker Consultants Technical Director Carlos Abrahams' sketched notes from the CIEEM Annual Conference

Carlos gets creative. Sketched notes from the CIEEM Annual Conference