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Andrew Baker has been invited to speak about the legal position of European Protected Species (EPS) at a Planning and Design Group (P&DG) breakfast seminar on 17th March.

European Protected Species: A minefield that is being slowly cleared?

The presence of European Protected Species such as bats, great crested newts and dormice can be a considerable problem for developers seeking planning permission and may be used as a reason for planning refusal.

Great Crested Newts (like this one pictured) are European Protected Species. Image by Senior Ecologist, Matt Cook

Great Crested Newts (like this one pictured) are European Protected Species. Image by Senior Ecologist, Matt Cook

The interaction between the EPS legal process and the planning system has been the subject of extensive legal dispute. In 2009, caselaw established that local planning authorities (LPAs) should consider the legal tests associated with EPS. However, more recent caselaw suggests that a more ‘relaxed’ approach is appropriate and LPAs should not duplicate the legal processes afforded to these species. Furthermore, Natural England (which has statutory responsibility for EPS), in the face of strong criticism from industry and the ecology profession, is now starting to make significant changes to the way that they implement the EPS licensing process. This could offer welcome improvements to the process.

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, is an ecologist with almost three decades of experience and is an expert in the practical application of nature conservation law. He was recently made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) in recognition of his contribution to this subject and is a member of a liaison team that has been working with Natural England to try and streamline the administration of the EPS licensing process. He is a veteran of many public inquiries where EPS were an issue and has appeared as an expert witness to local plan inquiries and parliamentary select committees.

Bats (including these Whiskered Brandt's) are European Protected Species. Image by Ecologist Courtenay Holden

Bats (including these Whiskered Brandt’s) are European Protected Species. Image by Ecologist, Courtenay Holden

About the seminar

In his talk, Andrew will review the structural basis of the legal protection afforded to EPS, and how it is administered in England by the LPAs and Natural England. He will explore the relevant caselaw and current legal position and report on the latest progress in this rapidly changing area.

The seminar takes place on Thursday 17th March from 7.30am in Nottingham. Alongside Andrew, there will be advice from P&DG on ‘Maximising Development Opportunities in the current Planning Environment’ as well as a talk from another guest speaker.

For anyone interested in attending the seminar, please contact us for more details.

More about European Protected Species

For more information on protected species licensing, and the services we offer, click here.

For information on individual protected species and our surveying capabilities, follow the below links:

Trees provide an essential resource for all our legally protected bat species. They provide foraging and commuting habitat and shelter, with almost all of our resident bat species known to roost in trees; indeed some almost exclusively.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing is therefore a very useful survey tool for a Natural England licensed bat ecologist, enabling them to undertake assessments of potential roost features within trees at height and complimenting other survey approaches, such as preliminary assessments from the ground and nocturnal surveys. Potential roost features might consist of a split, cavity, hollow, callus roll (a tree’s response to a wound) or loose bark in or around a branch or trunk of a tree.

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Ecologist Jake Robinson carrying out a tree climbing bat survey

Last week, two of our licensed bat ecologists, Matt Cook and Jake Robinson, successfully acquired their Level 2 City & Guilds NPTC awards in tree climbing and aerial rescue, formerly the CS38 ‘ticket’. This means that Matt and Jake are now professionally trained and certified to safely access and work in trees by rope and harness, and also carry out an emergency rescue at height if necessary. Our Technical Director, Carlos Abrahams, has also been certified and undertaking tree surveys at height for bats for several years.

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Potential roost features found during tree climbing bat surveys. Photo by Senior Ecologist, Mat Cook

Following the successful completion of his course, Matt said:

“Although I’ve assessed plenty of trees from the ground during my time as a bat ecologist, and been up on plenty of roofs and ladders during inspections and whilst working onsite, I don’t think I’d been more than a few feet up a tree since I was a teenager. I’d also never done any proper climbing before – assuming a day at ‘Go-Ape’ doesn’t count!

There was therefore a lot to take in on the first couple of days of the course and I’ll admit I was quite cautious about putting my life in the hands of the knots I was tying and remembering what to do when and where when dangling twenty feet off a branch. At least I felt ok working at height, as I can imagine this is what puts many people off this kind of work. It was surprisingly tiring for the first couple of days, as several people had warned me; I’m fairly fit and enjoy running, walking, cycling and playing football, but all of these only really use your legs!

As the course progressed though, I became more competent and my confidence grew as I improved my overall technique. However, I fully expect to be honing my skills continuously each time I head up a tree, which are of course all highly variable. Overall, I was really pleased to have successfully passed the course and am looking forward to undertaking some surveys and providing subsequent advice”.

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Senior Ecologist Matt Cook during his tree climbing training

Indeed Matt and Jake have already been assisting an experienced ‘tree climber’ with bat surveys of trees at height this week. Their training in this specialist survey skill has therefore already directly benefitted one of our valued clients.

Bat surveys and tree climbing

Usefully, and unlike many surveys for bats and other fauna, surveying trees at height for bats can be undertaken at any time of year. This is because bats can potentially use trees all year round to roost and also hibernate. Best practice would always be to undertake a preliminary assessment of a tree from the ground for its potential to support bat roosts prior to any felling or significant pruning or coppicing etc. If a potential roost feature is identified, and the presence or likely absence of bats cannot adequately be determined from below, further surveys of this potential roost feature should be undertaken. This might include a suite of nocturnal surveys, but may also or alternatively include an assessment of this potential roost feature at height i.e. tree climbing.

Baker Consultants can offer all of the above ecological assessment services with regard to bats, so please contact us for a discussion about your project or visit our Bat Survey page for further information.

 

 

 

 

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.

Last week, as part of our ongoing CPD and survey innovation commitments, two of our Natural England licensed bat ecologists attended an advanced bat survey techniques training course in Sussex at the National Trust Slindon Estate. Uniquely, this course is run via the not-for-profit Bat Conservation and Research Unit (BatCRU); something that particularly appeals to our conservation-minded ecologists. In essence, the trainees taking part in the course are also acting as researchers and funds generated from the training courses (alongside a grant from SITA) enable the BatCRU to undertake The West Sussex Bat Project with support from the National Trust.

The course has been running since 2013 and the overall aim is to use the data acquired from all the research to apply for a grant for large-scale bat habitat improvements in West Sussex, particularly for rare Annex II bat species (such as the barbastelle bats shown below) from the EU LIFE+ fund.

Three barbastelle bats in the hand, caught using harp traps and mist nets (with lures) on the course. Photo by Matt Cook

Three barbastelle bats in the hand, caught using harp traps and mist nets (with lures) on the course. Photo by Matt Cook

What bat survey skills did we learn?

For Diana Clark, Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants and licensed at level 2 by Natural England, this was her first time on the week-long course. An experienced bat ecologist with many years experience as a consultant (and with local bat groups), Diana was keen to learn more about the use of advanced survey techniques such as mist nets, harp traps, acoustic lures, professional night-vision equipment and radio-tagging and -tracking, as well as research techniques such as ringing. Suffice to say Diana now has an excellent understanding of these methods, and when best to use them, and was lucky enough to get up close and personal with a couple of new (to her) bat species.

For Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants, this was actually his third time. Matt already holds a Natural England level 3 and 4 class licence to survey for bats using the above techniques, but is always keen to advance his knowledge further and study bat ecology in general; particularly when he can support the research being undertaken by BatCRU.

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

Harp trap by Simon Curtin

More information

All bats and their roosts are protected from harm and disturbance at all times by EU and UK law and bats’ foraging habitats also receive some protection within the planning system.

  • For more information on how our advanced bat survey techniques can benefit your project or if you have any queries relating to bats and your project, please contact Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist.
  • Read more about our bat services here.

The course Matt and Diana attended was devised and run by Daniel Whitby, Director of AEWC Ltd with additional support from Daniel Hargreaves of Trinibats. Both Daniel W and Daniel H are technical advisors to the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England. If you would like more information on The West Sussex Bat Project or training courses to be run in 2016, please contact Daniel Whitby of AEWC and BatCRU.

At Baker Consultants, we have long understood the value of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to our profession, and in particular the capacity of multi-platform open-source software, such as QGIS, to facilitate our work. Several of our consultants are very experienced, capable GIS analysts but, as you’d expect with ecologists of different specialisations and backgrounds, our levels of GIS experience vary.

To refresh some of our ecologists’ existing knowledge and bring others up to speed, our marine and terrestrial ecologists recently took an intensive two-day QGIS training course led by expert tutor Dr Mark O’Connell of ERT Conservation. The in-house workshop (held at the Derbyshire Eco Centre) was designed to rapidly get everyone to a ‘competent user’ level, from which we can go on to build our own wider skills base.

Baker Consultants' ecologists on QGIS training course

Baker Consultants’ ecologists in the midst of their QGIS training

After initial introductions, Mark reminded us of a few of the basics of GIS, such as its conception in Canada in the 1960s, its vast range of uses, and the variety and importance of different Co-ordinate Reference Systems. Then came the technical bit! We were taken on a tour of geodatabases and shapefiles, vector and raster layers, and lines, points and polygons. Mark then demonstrated some of the useful QGIS functions for ecologists and conservation practitioners, such as digitising, terrain analysis, manipulating layers and editing data, as well as a selection of the many ‘plug-ins’ available for this software. Finally, we took a detailed look at the array of useful features within the geoprocessing, research and analysis toolkits. Despite Day 1 moving at a pretty quick pace, everyone kept up.

GIS in action

GIS in action

The general approach of Day 2 was to consolidate work from the previous day, and introduce the use of statistical analyses within GIS, for instance in order to test for relationships and differences in datasets. Mark outlined a number of potentially very useful functions for us professional ecologists, such as the ability to test for statistically significant habitat preferences of different fauna, as well as proximity analysis.

In summary, it’s fair to say that the course was challenging, but enjoyable. More importantly, we all appreciated the significant capacity of QGIS to support our work and are all now fully able to put into practice what we learnt.

Matt Cook, Senior Ecologist

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.

The Association for Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (AEECoW) is a not for profit organisation set up by environmental consultants three years ago.  Since then, it has established itself as the qualifying body for Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (Env/ECoW). Their first training course was held in Stirling in September this year to a group of multi-disciplinary professionals working in the environmental and construction industries.

Jane Forrest, Principal Ecologist from Baker Consultants attended the one-day course as a step towards a formal qualification in Env/ECoW and to share best practice experiences in this area.  The Association is in the process of setting up Good Practice Guidelines for Env/ECoW aimed primarily at planners to enable then to better understand the purpose and requirements of this role in construction projects.  More information can be found at, http://www.aeecow.com/.

Course dates are now confirmed for SM2BAT training with Paul Howden-Leach. This is the only SM2 training course approved by Wildlife Acoustics.

Tuesday 27th November 2012
Tuesday 29th January 2013
Tuesday 12th March 2013

Venue: Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

The full day training session will provide a users introduction to the SM2 unit itself and will focus on the following elements:-

  • Getting to know the unit
  • Basic setup for deployment
  • Data download
  • Dealing with the data
  • Advanced setup techniques

The course will also include an overview of the EM3 hand held unit.

Applicants will be required to bring an SM2BAT unit and a laptop. Full details of required equipment will be set out in the joining instructions.

The course fee is £225 + VAT and includes refreshments and a buffet lunch.

To book your place please contact sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk or download the booking form below. Group rates and bespoke courses are available.

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

Having become the UK’s acknowledged experts in the use of the Wildlife Acoustics’ SM2 range of full spectrum recorders, Baker Consultants Ltd has been commissioned by the manufacturer to provide field support to their UK users. The aim of the service is to answer any queries that you may have regarding the set up and use of the SM2 and any issues of data handling.

Any hardware issues will be passed directly on to Wildlife Acoustics.

We have set up a dedicated telephone line for the service. The service is free of charge and will be provided by Paul Howden-Leach of Baker Consultants Ltd.

Telephone: 0114 360 9977
Email: sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk
Skype: sm2fieldsupport

Next SM2BAT training courses are:
Thursday 16th February 2012
Thursday 15th March 2012

To download a booking form click  SM2 Booking Form.

SM2BAT COURSE DATES FOR 2011/12

Thursday 3rd November 2011
Thursday 16th February 2012
Thursday 15th March 2012

 

Venue: Arkwright’s Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire

The full day training sessions provide users with an introduction to the SM2BAT unit itself and will focus on the following:·

•    Getting to know the unit
•    Basic setup for deployment
•    Data download
•    Dealing with the data
•    Advanced setup techniques

Applicants will be required to bring an SM2BAT unit and an internet enabled laptop. Full details of required equipment will be set out in the joining instructions. The course fee is £225 + VAT and includes refreshments.

To book a place please contact: m.jennings@bakerconsultants.co.uk

Baker Consultants is hosting a seminar at DLA Piper Manchester on Wednesday 28th September.

The seminar addresses ecological constraints to development and how to
overcome the legal hurdles. If you are a planner, planning consultant,
developer or ecologist, whether for a commercial organisation or local
authority, you are welcome to attend.

Ecological issues often cost developers time and money. Whether due to great crested newts, bats, water voles or SSSIs/European designated sites, developers find themselves dealing with legal hurdles which are often difficult to overcome. Recent case law has highlighted the pitfalls and the need to get your strategy right.

Date:            WEDNESDAY 28th September
Time:            4-5.30pm
Venue:         101 Barbiroli Square, Manchester
Booking:       amy.mallett@dlapiper.com

The seminar will be led by Penny Simpson, Associate at DLA Piper UK LLP whose specialist area is in providing legal advice on “natural environment” issues to a wide range of clients including developers, industrial operators, local authorities and public interest groups and Andrew Baker, director of Baker Consultants, ecologist and expert witness.

The seminar is free and can contribute to CPD hours.

We have already started receiving inquiries for training courses on the SM2 and have now opened the list for pre-registration.