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To accommodate demand for land-based studies, the Brackenhurst Campus of Nottingham Trent University (NTU) needs to up-grade the existing provision. This will require the construction of new teaching and accommodation facilities across the campus. Brackenhurst Campus is a rural facility with an 18th Century Hall and associated gardens of historical importance, surrounded by a 200 hectare estate located south of the minster town of Southwell in mid-Nottinghamshire. Much of the estate is managed for agriculture with livestock and arable systems, but other land-based disciplines including nature conservation, equine, horticulture and animal studies also make use of the estate.

The range of habitats on the estate provides for a high diversity of species and of particular interest is the presence of nationally and internationally protected species including great crested newt Triturus cristatus and bats. Both bats and newts have a particular association with the built environment at Brackenhurst.

The ponds and gardens surrounding the main hall and teaching facilities, together with the plantation woodlands, hedgerows and rough grassland field margins provide excellent habitat for newts. Newts are also found in artificial features such as dry stone walls, cable ducts, cable inspection pits and storm drains. Away from the built environment of the estate, newts have tended to be more scarce, because of the isolation of potential breeding ponds, which are more than 500m distance.

Given the size of the newt population at Brackenhurst, which is one of the largest in Nottinghamshire and their potential to be present just about anywhere near the buildings, any development risks having an adverse impact on newts. Newts and their habitats are protected from disturbance and harm and to derogate from the legal protection it is standard practice to apply for a licence for each development parcel. Such an approach is piecemeal, time-consuming and can be very expensive.

Typical newt refugia at Brackenhurst; former patio area containing 30 adult newts

On behalf of NTU, Baker Consultants entered into negotiation with Natural England to adopt a more sustainable, cost effective and long-term solution for the protection of newts during and after the development programme. The timing of the discussion coincided with a new approach by Natural England to the provision of European Protected Species licences for development. The UK government web-site stated that Natural England was adopting a new approach. “Four innovative new policies have been created that will smooth the process for businesses who require a wildlife licence for their project, saving them time and money. In return, they will fund an unprecedented level of investment in the creation and enhancement of wildlife habitat. This will provide greater security for populations of European protected species such as dormice, bats and great crested newts.

The new policies provided NTU with an opportunity to take a new approach to newt conservation and Baker Consultants were commissioned to prepare a ‘Phased Licence’ for the entire campus development programme. In practice this has committed NTU to a programme of mitigation including the enhancement of three existing ponds and creation of four new ponds, combined with the creation and enhancement of terrestrial habitats including woodlands and field boundaries. The work will be carried out under the supervision of Baker Consultants and will be implemented by contractors with significant input from staff and students. The network of new and existing ponds means that there are no longer distances of more than 300m between ponds and the enhancement of terrestrial habitat will enable newts to expand across the entire campus and in the long-term expand towards other known populations in the Southwell area.

Unoccupied pond at Brackenhurst that is, at present, more than 350m from
the nearest breeding pond

Most of the development work is still at the planning stage and whilst there is a memorandum of understanding with the Local Planning Authority this was not sufficient for Natural England. As such, NTU have entered into a legal agreement to deliver the mitigation, mostly in advance of the development work, which is itemised in a management plan that will last for 25 years. For some of the development proposals trapping and translocation will be essential to ensure that the population is protected, but in other examples where sub-optimal habitat is effected, a destructive search will be sufficient even when the development is close to newt breeding ponds.

The legally binding and long-term commitment by NTU has enabled Baker Consultants to deliver a sustainable and cost-effective solution to the potential constraints to development that the presence of European protected species can cause. The positive conservation action should extend the range and size of the population encouraging expansion beyond the boundaries of the campus.

 

We are very pleased to have won Nottingham Trent Universities’ supplier award for best contribution to social value and sustainability for our work of Great Crested Newts at the Brackenhurst Campus.

The official press release reads as follows. “Baker Consultants has been working closely with NTU’s Brackenhurst Campus on its ambitious redevelopment programme to ensure biodiversity of the estate was not only protected but enhanced. Of high priority was the protection of the populations of Great Crested Newts; Brackenhurst Campus supports one of the largest and best studied populations in the county. Working with NTU, Baker Consultants was successful in obtaining a Phased European Protected Species License for the entire Brackenhurst development programme. Only a handful of phased licences have been issued across England, and this is the first of its kind for a University campus. Implementation of the licence will require collaboration and input from contractors, staff and students and NTU has committed to undertake a twenty-five year management programme. Baker Consultants will continue to work with NTU to ensure that the conditions of the licence are implemented and our biodiversity assets are protect, monitored and enhanced.”

Five years have elapsed since the translocation of a population of the dingy skipper Erynnis tages was completed at Summit Colliery in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. Monitoring has indicated that the project has succeeded way beyond expectations and has provided the population with a long-term future in the local area and numbers are such that expansion into new habitats beyond the existing range will very likely occur in the future.

Following demolition of the Summit headstock and colliery infrastructure, the site was left untouched for many years and in that time the botanical and invertebrate interest had developed sufficiently to meet the criteria to be designated as a Local Wildlife Site. The designation of the site created a problem, because the site was previously allocated by the local authority, following the demolition, as employment land. Following cessation of coal mining, the site was returned to Welbeck Estates who were seeking to re-develop the site to provide employment opportunities in the local area.

Survey of the site in support of a planning application, confirmed the botanical interest of the site with a variety of grassland species including common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and bee orchid Ophrys apifera. Invertebrates surveys revealed the presence of a range of butterfly species including a small population of dingy skipper, which is uncommon in Nottinghamshire. Consultees including Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) objected to the development, because of the site’s designation and the potential impact on biodiversity.

Baker Consultants were commissioned by Welbeck Estates to negotiate with the relevant stakeholders such as NWT to resolve the issue and to provide a long-term sustainable solution that would protect botanical diversity, maintain the conservation status of dingy skipper and enable re-development of the site.

The solution was based on the premise that not all of the site was of botanical and/or invertebrate interest and alternative land with low ecological value was available in the local area to modify and create bespoke habitat for butterflies and plants. Detailed method statements were prepared and the consultees were satisfied that the solution was sustainable and compliant with local and national planning policies for biodiversity.

Baker Consultants in-house ecologists had the necessary expertise to prepare land to create species-rich grasslands within the Summit Colliery site and on a nearby former colliery spoil tip, which had been part-cleared of immature plantation woodland (a mix of Swedish whitebeam Sorbus intermedia , Scots pine Pinus sylvestris and grey alder Alnus incana). The grasslands were created using translocated materials including orchid-rich turf with the remaining areas being hydro-seeded with a grassland seed-mix containing larval and adult food plants for the butterfly species recorded on the site.

New off-site butterfly bank

The translocation of dingy skipper larvae and the creation of specific habitat was carried out by Mike Slater (Chairman of the Warwickshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation). Mike was invited to help, because of his expertise with habitat creation for dingy skipper, specifically the creation of butterfly banks. Mike surveyed the site, identified locations containing the larvae, supervised the creation of the butterfly banks and the translocation of the turf containing the larvae. The turfs were carefully positioned into the butterfly banks and the banks were modified at the micro-scale to provide the exacting conditions required by dingy skipper eggs and larvae.

The care and attention to detail has proved to be worthwhile. The translocated grasslands and hydro-seeded grasslands are thriving and the few losses of plant species has been restricted to non-native garden plants. Monitoring of the dingy skipper populations provided encouraging results from the outset and the results of the 2016 monitoring indicated a minimum population size increase of 350% in the created habitats when compared to the baseline in the original habitats. The final monitoring in 2018 of adult butterflies only, indicated that the increase in population size has been sustained.

 

Translocated and sown species-rich grassland at Summit Colliery

Half of the former Summit Colliery site has been developed with two areas allocated for biodiversity that will continue to be managed for plants and butterflies. The off-site land is connected to a larger area of Local Wildlife Site grassland that also supports dingy skipper; all of which will be sustainably managed.

The expertise provided by Butterfly Conservation and willingness of Welbeck Estates, supported by Baker Consultants enabled a sustainable long-term solution to be developed that is compliant with planning policy.

 

 Hydro-seeded off-site grassland

 

From supervising the licensed removal of roofing material at a bat roost, to overseeing tree removal or the creation of ponds, an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECOW) role is varied. ECoWs play an important role on construction sites, fully briefing clients to avoid conflict with legislation or planning consents, whilst protecting biodiversity features during site clearance and development activities.

An ECoW is assisted by guidance and recommendations, as set out under British Standard BS42020:2013, standing advice from Government bodies, and site-specific planning conditions or Construction Environmental Management Plans. A good ECoW will have a full knowledge of the ongoing development requirements, local and site biodiversity and the client’s legal obligations. A toolbox talk is always given to outline the environmental and sustainability issues, as well as health and safety matters, pertinent to the activity about to be undertaken, and the ECoW is present on site, or easily contactable, when sensitive works are to take place.

Baker Consultants assists our clients throughout the planning process, from the initial identification of constraints and gathering of pre-application baseline ecological data, to the implementation of mitigation/enhancement measures and monitoring. Many projects have required an ECoW on site during the construction phase. The benefits our clients receive are experienced staff with sound site-specific ecological knowledge and the support of a company network of in-house specialists to ensure that legal and planning obligations are followed throughout the construction process .

Principal Ecologist Mark Woods overseeing pond creation.

 

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.

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.

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.