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Biological records are an essential part of the background information used when developing an ecological assessment for a site. High quality biological records provide evidence that an animal or plant was present in a particular place at a specific time.  In its simplest form each individual biological record contains four essential pieces of information: who identified the organism, the species name, where and when it was found.

Baker Consultants has a policy of submitting records as part of our commitment to best practice in ecological consultancy. This helps to support the biological records centres that form a vital part of the desk study early on in every development project. Knowing what wildlife or habitat has previously been recorded on or near to a site can help our clients put together an ecology strategy for their project, identifying impacts and the potential for biodiversity gain as required under the National Planning Policy Framework.

Records may be collected on a casual, ad hoc basis or they may be generated as part of a one-off survey or longer-term monitoring process.  Collectively, they are extremely important, providing the foundation for ecological consultancy and conservation, and informing current and future projects in an area.

Baker Consultants ecologist Steve Docker has completed the MSc Biological Recording with Manchester Metropolitan University studying a range of taxa.  An essential part of the learning process was the construction of keys to enable accurate species identification – and generate valid biological records for a range of species groups.  Since graduating in 2017, Steve has continued to work on identification keys using the Field Studies Council (FSC) Identikit, a software tool that enables individuals to create on-line, multi-access keys.  So far, Steve has collaborated with other highly experienced naturalists to produce keys to British wader species in non-breeding plumage and to British macrofungi genera.

An example of the British wader species key:

The keys are freely available to download to either a laptop or mobile phone via the FSC . Steve is now working on an Identikit key to British beetle families.

 

The now infamous ‘People Over Wind’ case (C323/17) led to a considerable shake up in the practical application of the Habitats Directive when the judgement ruled that mitigation measures cannot be taken into account at the likely significant effect (LSE) screening stage. One of the many problems it created was that much policy and guidance suddenly became out of date and needed to be rewritten. Of particular note was the presumption in favour of sustainable development set out in the National Planning Polity Framework (NPPF). The previous NPPF removed this presumption where LSE could not be ruled out. This was always problematic in my view, why remove this tilt in favour of sustainable development simply because an Appropriate Assessment is required – after all the plan or project may subsequently pass the legal tests with flying colours and no harm is caused. After People Over Wind this became even more problematic as many more projects failed the LSE test and the presumption has to be removed for many more projects even though they would subsequently pass the legal test at the AA stage.

Following consultation, para 177 of the NPPF has now been updated and reads ‘The presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that the plan or project will not adversely affect the integrity of the habitats site.’

The full text of the NPPF 2019 can be found here