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In order to protect its position on issues of air quality that may have the potential to affect the Ashdown Forest SPA/SAC, Wealden District Council has taken the extraordinary step of objecting to residential development in neighbouring authorities and beyond. The objections raised by Wealden District Council include even small residential developments of a few units some 30km away from Ashdown Forest, in authority areas that do not share a border with Wealden District. The objection letters also refer to other European sites where air quality, particularly nitrogen deposition, is unlikely to be detrimental to the interest features of the site.

Heather in bloom on lowland heathland, Rockford Common, Linwood, New Forest National Park, Hampshire, England, UK, sunrise, August 2011

Lowland Heathland, 2011.

While it is clear that air quality is a key issue for some European sites and one that needs to be addressed, it is also true that there are ways in which the effects of additional traffic generated by new residential development can be mitigated, avoiding the need to trigger an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Regulations.

Our advice to developers within the region is to ensure that, prior to submission, they prepare a statement to accompany their planning application which sets out: a) whether there are likely to be any effects of air quality arising from the project, and b) if there are, how these effects will be mitigated. For large development this will require a multidisciplinary approach involving ecologists, air quality expertise and traffic consultants.

In a statement, Wealden District Council has referred to their ‘precautionary approach’ which we take as a reference to the precautionary principle and a misinterpretation of that tenet.

 

 

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.

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.

Barry Wright, one of Baker Consultants’ Principal Ecologists, has along with Professor Ian Rotherham from Sheffield Hallam University developed a new system for documenting hedgerows; providing information on their biodiversity and data to inform mitigation and translocation strategies. Barry’s HEDGES system is featured in full in the Summer 2015 edition of Conservation Land Management.

Problems with current hedgerow aging system

Barry began developing his system after discovering flaws in the Hooper formula typically used for aging hedgerows. Hooper had asserted that the average number of woody species present in a 30-yard section of hedgerow could be used as an indication of its age. This is based on the assumption that hedges were initially planted with one species and have acquired more at the approximate rate of one per 100 years. However, Barry found instances where a hedge that documentation revealed as being 200 years old could, applying the Hooper rule, appear to be in the region of 400-700 years old.

Barry said: “I believe that most hedges originally consisted of more than one species and that the complex changes since their creation should not be be simplified to just giving an age to a hedge. Hedgerows are a living history book waiting to be read. We just need to learn the language”.

Barry Wright, Principal Ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

Barry Wright, Principal Ecologist at Baker Consultants, surveying hedgerows

HEDGES system

Barry consequently developed the Hedgerow Ecological Description Grading and Evaluation System (which conveniently abbreviates to HEDGES!) as part of his PhD, which can be used to create replicas of historic hedgerows. One of the three levels of detail that can be recorded using the system involves recording the abundance of tree, shrub and ground flora species every four metres along a hedgerow and giving each an abundance score. This can then be used to produce a planting list that forms the basis of creating a replica hedgerow to reflect the character of the local hedgescape.

Use of HEDGES to replicate historical hedgerows

Following this method, selected lengths of seven historical hedgerows from across Yorkshire were replicated on a farm in North Yorkshire as part of the Historical Replica Hedgerow Project (HRHP). They have been replicated along a hedgeline known to have been present in 1644 at the Battle of Marston Moor, but where the majority of the hedgerow had been lost. The lengths of hedgerow were chosen specifically to represent the historical origins and development of hedges over time and the site has access as part of an educational resource provided by the farmer. The oldest examples replicated can be traced back to the Norman conquest and possibly earlier.

The replication process carried out by Barry does not aim to justify unnecessary destruction of hedgerows, but help provide further guidance as to how mitigation for loss can be made more effective and more authentic.

Extract from Barry's Conservation Land Management article Summer 2015

Extract from Barry’s Conservation Land Management article Summer 2015

Why Baker Consultants

Innovation in ecology survey methods is part of Baker Consultants’ DNA and we are experienced in mitigation and the translocation of a wide range of species, including waxcaps, reptiles and butterflies.

Read our case studies for more on:

Contact a member of our team to discuss your project

May 2015 update:

Watch a time-lapse video of the demolition of the Cornwall Coliseum at Carlyon Bay below.

March 2015:

We were delighted to attend the official opening of Polgaver Bat House, part of the Carlyon Bay development in Cornwall. Our managing director, Andrew Baker, and senior ecologist, Mark Woods, were present as Councillor June Anderson, chairman of St Blaise Town Council, and local school pupils officially declared the new bat house open for business. Andrew has been involved with the Carlyon Bay development for over 10 years, working to ensure that protecting the ecology of Carlyon Bay has been at the heart of the project throughout.

Polgaver Bat House opening

Polgaver Bat House opening

“The bat house is the first of many features that have been designed into the scheme to ensure that Carlyon Bay is both a prime destination within Cornwall and an exemplar project for wildlife. It’s a clear demonstration of Commercial Estates Group’s commitment to help maintain and enhance Cornwall’s natural environment.

“After 13 years of working on the project, I was very proud to see the first permanent building completed. What was even more satisfying, was that the building is designed to enhance the ecology of the site and also looks so beautiful”.

Andrew Baker, managing director of Baker Consultants.

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

Outstretched male bat wing by Lorna Griffiths

As well as the ceremonious cutting of the ribbon, ecologist Anton Kattan, on behalf of Baker Consultants, led a half hour interactive talk on the ‘life of bats’ for the school pupils. This fascinating insight into the nocturnal world of the bat house’s soon-to-be new residents enthralled the children, who were able to look at several bat specimens up close.

Anton's 'life of bats' talk at Polgaver Bat House opening

Anton’s ‘life of bats’ talk at Polgaver Bat House opening

The new bat house was designed by architects Squire and Partners, following detailed consultation with Baker Consultants’ ecologists, and provides an alternative habitat for any bats that may have been roosting in the soon-to-be demolished local Coliseum building. Located close to the cliff face in a woodland setting, the new bat house directly addresses the bats’ established feeding route, and is orientated east-west to give a south facing aspect to the pitched roof. As well as accommodating a key requirement to provide suitable thermal conditions, a variety of access points makes this an ideal bat roosting environment.

Polgaver Bat House

Polgaver Bat House

“Bats use a variety of roosts throughout the year and during studies of the Coliseum since 2010 we have seen a gradual increase in the diversity of species sheltering in the building.  There has never been a large colony, but individual bats were found in several internal rooms.  They are inquisitive animals and have found dark, enclosed rooms to shelter during the day. The bat house provides similar conditions to those found in the Coliseum and we have also added features to help improve roosting opportunities, with the hope that breeding animals may eventually move in. The bat house is part of a larger ecology management strategy to promote biodiversity on Polgaver”.

Anton Kattan, ecologist for Baker Consultants.

Note: Unless a bat is being rescued from imminent harm, bats should only ever be handled by an appropriately licensed (e.g. Natural England) bat ecologist and should never be handled by inexperienced persons without suitable gloves. All licensed bat handlers are vaccinated against the minuscule risk of rabies and therefore such experienced bat handlers may occasionally handle some species without gloves, as shown in the photograph above.

Paul reports on his trip to the Mammal Society Conference in Bangor. He attended talks on Dormice, badger mitigation and brown hares among other creatures and had a great group for his SM2 workshop.

Paul writes:

I was invited to run an SM2 workshop at the Mammal Conference held in Bangor by the British Mammal Society in early November 2011. The event was held in the Bramall building at Bangor University, which contains a small but fantastic natural history museum.

The difficulty with running an event such as this is the need to cater for a wide range of different audiences including interested members of the public who are just getting into natural history, enthusiastic volunteers (whose knowledge on British mammals often swamps many of the professionals), consultants, local authorities and academics. The conference was pitched perfectly invoking discussions within the talks and throughout the breaks and lunch.

The day was kicked off by the president of the Mammal society Dereck Yaldon, whose talk on Brown Hare populations was very interesting, of which one of the main conclusions is, he needs more hare records so please send any records to your local records office or to the Mammal Soc’s National Mammal Atlas. This was followed by a talk on badger mitigation by Penny Lewns and what works and what doesn’t. After lunch Jack Grasse gave a very unique talk on Dormouse surveying(see our dormouse blog piece here), I won’t go into detail as I think most people who attended the conference will agree that if you get a chance to see Jack speak whatever he speaks on you will remember forever. This was followed by a presentation on the Alcathose bat by Kate Williamson from Leeds university.

The mammal society gave a presentation looking at hedgehog survey techniques which required plastic sheeting, powder paint, oil white paper, paperclips, sticky back plastic and hot dog sausages. Very Blue Peter and very effective. I know I have missed other presentations out and of course all of the workshops but needless to say that the Mammal society events are well worth having a look at.

Many thanks to all of the people who organised such a wonderful event.

It took almost a whole season of survey to discover, but after monthly checks having setting out nest boxes and tubes in early June, dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius)  were discovered in hedges at a site in the south west of England.

Dormice are elusive and one of the hardest species to find.  They have a southern distribution in England and occur in Wales (with some outlier populations in the north, such as Northumberland, as well as introductions in Cheshire and Yorkshire). They can occur on sites with woodland, scrub or hedgerows, and in some counties in the South West of England they have also been recorded on relatively open, tree-less habitats such as heathland and culm grassland.

Dormice need habitats containing lots of different types of shrubs and trees to ensure a continuous supply of food throughout the year – well, until they hibernate.  When found on development sites the approach is to try and retain the existing habitats.  T

The key to successful mitigation is to ensure that the habitats remain connected to other areas of suitable habitat in the wider area.  Scrub habitats are ideal for dormice and often compensatory planting of scrub forms part of the mitigation strategy. Indirect impacts of developments are also an issue, with residential development bringing with it increased pressure on woodlands from recreational use and predators such as cats.

As a European Protected Species, dormice and their habitats have the highest level of protection afforded them, the same level of protection as bats under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

In a very short period of time the SM2BAT from Wildlife Acoustics has become
recognised as an industry-standard remote bat detector and is widely
used by consultants, universities and researchers.

Superior field equipment that records more calls brings with it the challenge of larger volumes of data to analyse.

Baker Consultants is now able to offer a full data processing service to assist in the analysis of bat survey field recordings. Using our library of bat call ‘recognisers’ our experienced bat ecologists can
provide a cost-effective, independent analysis of SM2 recordings.

Outputs
We will provide a detailed analysis of the data, using Songscope software, and provide the following information from each recording session:

•    A summary spreadsheet of the data including a confirmed species list.
•    A list highlighting calls which are dubious or inadequately recorded.
•    Measured call parameters will be provided for calls of rare species.
•    A date and time-indexed spreadsheet of all identifiable calls.

Benefits
•    Rapid, cost effective analysis using the SM2 native software, Songscope.
•    Full spectrum analysis capturing a greater number of calls.
•    Independent verification avoiding any charge of bias.
•    Data remains confidential and site anonymous.
•    Time and cost savings.

Please contact Carlos Abrahams if you would like more details of this service or email sm2@bakerconsulants.co.uk

newt

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