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Andrew Baker will be tutoring on the Wildlife Law Course 8th-10th November.

The cost of the course is £175

If you are interested in booking on the course please contact Debbie Liversidge at Browne Jacobson.

For details of the course please click on the link below

Ten years on from the previous edition, CIEEM (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) has just released revised guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) and our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, reviews them here.

“Ecology is one of the most common issues that needs to be addressed within Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), alongside other disciplines such as water quality, landscape and cultural heritage.

“The new guidelines are intended to promote good practice in assessing  terrestrial, freshwater and coastal environments in the UK and Ireland. This can be in the context of formal EIA, or on smaller-scale projects when a simpler assessment is required to support a straightforward planning application. The new guidance sets out best practice in producing an effective assessment, with input from contributing ecologists and other specialists working in collaboration.

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

Ecological Impact Assessments are needed for a wide range of developments

“An EcIA report (or the ecological chapter of an EIA Environmental Statement) should clearly and simply describe the significant effects of any project so that competent authorities and other interested parties understand the implications of development proposals.

“The new guidance joins other advice from CIEEM, the government and the British Standards Institute in how ecological input should be incorporated into the development and planning process, helping to implement the requirements of legislation such as the EIA Regulations and other aspects of the Town and Country Planning Act.”

Our approach to Ecological Impact Assesment

Baker Consultants have experience of all stages of the EIA and EcIA process, from data collection to assessment of anticipated impacts, and from mitigation and assessment of any residual effects, to non-technical summaries and cumulative assessments. Our in-house team of ecology consultants has a wealth of experience of working in large multidisciplinary teams alongside landscape architects, transport consultants, planners, and archaeologists to produce co-ordinated assessments of schemes.

We are always aware that any of our work may be subject to the detailed scrutiny of a public inquiry and have extensive experience of taking projects through the appeal process or even to the courts. For this reason, we have developed a reputation as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and are often called in to deal with situations where careful negotiations are required or where an experienced expert witness is needed.

Read more about our experience of EIAs and EcIAs here

The Mammal Society has just published new water vole mitigation guidelines for development and construction projects. Here we provide an overview of the background to the guidelines as well as the key recommendations within them. The full guideline PDF can be viewed here.

Water vole by Diana Clark, Senior Ecologist

Water vole by Diana Clark, Senior Ecologist

Water voles

Water voles (Arvicola amphibius) are one of the UK’s fastest declining wild mammals and listed as a species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England, Scotland and Wales. As such, they are protected under UK wildlife conservation legislation, making them of material consideration in the determining of planning applications.

New water vole mitigation guidelines

The Mammal Society’s new publication aims to promote best practice amongst ecological consultants in undertaking surveys and designing and implementing water vole mitigation measures. It also aims to enable decision makers to ensure the appropriateness of survey information provided and mitigation measures proposed.

The guidance relates to development projects and other construction activities, including those requiring other environmental permits, such as flood defence consent. It supersedes the Water Vole Conservation Handbook in all aspects relating to development.

The below flow chart shows the different elements involved in considering water voles as part of a planning application.

Flow chart for considering water voles as part of a planning application. From The Water Vole Mitigation Handbook

Flow chart for considering water voles as part of a planning application. From The Water Vole Mitigation Handbook

Key recommendations

  1. Licensing for displacement: Activities aimed at displacing water voles in the context of a development project require a licence and are not covered by the ‘incidental result’ defence. Different types of licence are required for England, Wales and Scotland (see the full guidelines for details). In both England and Wales, the projects must deliver a net benefit for water voles.
  2. Relocation of water voles (trapping versus displacement): Although further research is needed on the effectiveness of displacement, displacement is currently considered a potentially useful technique, particularly for small-scale works where trapping would be disproportionately expensive and could impact other animals due to individuals moving into vacant territories. As a rule, displacement is recommended where the working area is a maximum of 50m long, where works are carried out between 15th Feb and 15th April and where sufficient available alternative habitat exists. In England, displacement that meets these criteria can be conducted under a Class Licence by a registered person, whereas displacement under other circumstances requires a site-specific licence. In Scotland and Wales, a site-specific licence is always required.
  3. Appropriate timing for trapping and relocation operations: Water voles should ideally be trapped during early spring (1st March – 15th April). As a last resort, water voles can also be trapped during autumn (15th September – 30th November). Trapping should be timed to avoid periods of heavy rain or snow, fluctuating water levels and periods when overnight temperatures fall below freezing. Some seasonal variation in appropriate dates for trapping is acceptable in certain parts of the UK.
  4. Water vole surveys that support planning applications and other construction activities: There are specific suggested protocols for field surveys that will support planning applications or other construction activities. Typically, the baseline information used to inform an assessment of the effects of a development on water voles should be based on a combination of desk study, habitat assessment and field sign survey. Field sign surveys should ideally include searches for field signs undertaken over at least two separate visits, conducted at least two months apart to account for variations in habitat suitability across the season. One survey should be in the first half of the season (mid-April – June) and one in the second (July – September). However, there are some circumstances in which only a single visit is likely to be necessary (see page 15 of the guidelines).

Find out more

Contact us today to discuss any aspect of these guidelines or any upcoming projects for which you may need water vole surveys or advice

Read the full guidelines here.

Back in 2007, the Bat Conservation Trust published the first edition of ‘Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines’, with the aim to provide some clarity on the different types of survey and survey effort needed to provide appropriate information for ecological assessments. Since 2007, new developments in equipment, methods, and legislation have meant that revision of the bat survey guidelines is needed.

The practical implementation of bat conservation has evolved and expanded, with a greater number of individuals undertaking professional bat work.

The second edition of the guidelines has just been released. This updated version provides improved guidance for those commissioning, undertaking or reviewing bat surveys throughout the UK. It is intended to enhance the standard and consistency of bat surveys and reports and ultimately lead to greater understanding of bats and improvements in their protection and conservation.

The BCT has set out to strengthen the focus on professional bat work within the guidance, both for those undertaking the work, and to include more details for planners assessing surveys. This edition also takes account of changes in technology, and the importance of selecting the right equipment to meet the survey aims and being clear about the limitations of different techniques.

As with any generic guidance though, the interpretation and implementation of case-by-case best practice is still very much down to trained and experienced ecologists, such as those at Baker Consultants. The BCT makes this clear in its introduction, stating that “there is no substitute for knowledge and experience in survey planning, methodology and interpretation of findings, and these guidelines are intended to support these”.

To commission a survey or site assessment, or if you’re an ecologist with too much data to analyse during the busy season give us a call on: 01629 593958

This newsflash has just been received from Natural England announcing the withdrawal of its reptile mitigation guidelines.

Consultants and interested parties are being encouraged to provide contributions to the
re-drafting process, but the contact details do not appear to be on the NE web site but can be found on the IEEM web site.

Reptile Mitigation Guidelines withdrawn

All staff involved in planning-related reptile mitigation work should note that following some useful early feedback from ecological consultants, Natural England has decided to withdraw the first edition of the Reptile Mitigation Guidelines (Technical Information Note No. 102, dated 9 September 2011) to enable various points to be clarified and addressed.  This is an important work area, potentially affecting large numbers of planning applications in England, so we wish to ensure that the guidelines are as clear and as widely accepted as possible.

The first edition of the Reptile Mitigation Guidelines is therefore null and void.  All quotes, surveys and technical reports produced by consultants using older guidance (i.e. pre-dating TIN102) will still be acceptable, even if the work continues into 2012.  Any new fee proposals produced can also continue to follow previous guidance until such time as the guidelines have been re-published.  To reduce this inevitable overlap period, the second edition of the Reptile Mitigation Guidelines will be issued as soon as possible, certainly before the start of the next active season for reptiles.

In the meantime, the first edition can be treated as a draft and we are giving interested parties a chance to make additional comments to help us further improve the guidelines.  The deadline for these contributions is 1 January 2012.

Natural England has launched new guidelines on survey and site
mitigation for reptiles, producing a single set of standards for good
practice in reptile ecology work. It is aimed at developers, local
authorities and consultants.

All species of reptile are now on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
priority list, so their conservation has to be taken into account during
the planning process, whenever a site supports populations of grass
snake, slow worm, common lizard or other reptiles.

Our Principal Ecologist Kelly Clark writes:

Natural England has launched new guidelines on survey and site mitigation for reptiles, producing a single set of standards for good practice in reptile ecology work. It is aimed at developers, local authorities and consultants.

All species of reptile are now on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority list, so their conservation has to be taken into account during the planning process, whenever a site supports populations of grass snake, slow worm, common lizard or other reptiles.

The new guidelines present changes to presence / absence surveys methodology and the amount of visits that are undertaken at particular times of year. This may have implications for project planning and the implementation of ecological work.

The new guidance allows for more flexibility with timing of surveys, as now it is possible to survey from February to October, rather than only around the months of April/May and September.  But there are costs associated with this flexibility, as significantly more visits and survey effort are required to satisfy the guidelines outside of the key periods. TIN102 also presents impact mitigation guidelines which could also have a resourcing implication for any proposed development.

Kelly Clark commented….”When we are developing the costings of future reptile survey work, we will need to work more closely with the client to think through the project timescale. A balance will need to be reached between being cost effective, whilst adhering to the guidelines. If reptiles are an issue for a proposed site, then it is advised that the developer speaks to a consultant ecologist early in the project about what is required and how long it may take to complete the work in order to prevent delays.”

A PDF is downloadable here: Reptile mitigation guidelines

newt

Natural England has released new mitigation guidelines for reptiles. The pdf is available for download here
TIN102.